by Bernadine Burnette
“With improved economies, tribes are supporting their own schools, hospitals, senior services, housing and much-needed infrastructure like water systems, roads and communication networks.”
This year’s AIGA Expo will take place at the We-Ko-Pa Resort and Conference Center on Sunday, October 22-24, 2017. The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is proud to host the Expo, which will bring tribal leaders and industry professionals together to explore the current state of the tribal gaming industry. Equally important, the Expo is a time to reﬂect on all that tribal gaming has provided to tribes in Arizona.
Paying homage to exclusivity of tribal gaming in Arizona comes naturally for my nation. This May we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Sovereignty Day, commemorating the stand-off between the U.S. government and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Approximately six months later, the standoff resulted in the signing of new gaming compacts for tribes in Arizona. This was achieved through an organized effort of determination and uniﬁcation from tribes across the country. While time has passed, the efforts by tribes to collectively progress is as prevalent now as it was then.
United in Action – Tribal Leaders Vow to Protect Exclusivity in Arizona
As a result of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, states have been negotiating with Indian tribes to conduct Class III gaming. The current Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact between the state and tribes went into effect in 2003 after the passage of Proposition 202 by Arizona voters. Despite these efforts in recent years, Arizona has seen its fair share of legislative efforts that would compromise tribal gaming exclusivity.
From online fantasy sports to racinos, commercial gaming organizations continue to seek avenues to expand gaming in Arizona. We’ve seen it as recently as January of this year when Senate Bill 1312 was introduced to allow keno-style electronic bingo machines in restaurants and bars. I’m proud to say that we soundly defeated this effort by being a vocal, present and persistent united front at the state capitol. At the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, we take these threats personally because we know what’s at stake for tribal members and non-tribal members alike if the sovereign right of gaming is upended through such legislation. It is through the contin-ued and tireless efforts of tribes working with legislators that exclusivity is reinforced and sustained, beneﬁting all Arizonans.
Shared Benefits – Shared Responsibility
Our tribal-state compacts are going on 15 years now and have proven to be an effective vehicle for regulating gaming and for sharing revenues with cities, towns and tribes not engaged in gaming as a means of economic development. In the last 10 years alone, gaming revenues in excess of $1 billion have been invested in Arizona education, health-care, wildlife and tourism as part of these compact agreements.
Tribal members are also benefiting directly as our govern-ments are moving to achieve self-reliance. With improved economies, tribes are supporting their own schools, hospitals, senior services, housing and much-needed infrastructure like water systems, roads and communication networks.
This is in addition to the many economic diversification projects made possible by gaming revenue investments. These projects allow tribes to seek alliances in the private and public sector, ultimately creating positive economic impacts for small businesses and strengthened government to government relationships.
The Power of Unity
At our recent annual Tribal Leader’s Retreat, White Mountain Apache Tribe’s long-time Chairman Ronnie Lupe reminded leaders to persevere in unity and collective strength. We discussed how each of our 15 member tribes would work together, hand-in-hand, to protect our sovereign right to game for generations to come – giving them the opportunity to continue on a path of self-reliance set out by the genera-tions before them.
Whether through face-to-face meetings with legislators; educational campaigns to highlight the countless benefits of tribal gaming revenues for the state (including grassroots efforts that span from corner to corner of our great state) or good old-fashioned word-of-mouth conversations between a casino employee and her neighbor, we will continue to lend our collective voices to this important cause.
Bernadine Burnette is President of the Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation and also serves as Chairperson for the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. She can be reached by calling (480) 284-4034 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arizona Indian Gaming Association represents 15 tribes representing Indian people living on reservations in Arizona. While four tribes are located near urban areas, most tribal lands are located in remote areas of Arizona.