History of Indian Gaming in Arizona
In 1988, the U.S.
Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in response to
the proliferation of gambling halls on Indian reservations. IGRA
recognized gaming as a way to promote Tribal economic development,
self-sufficiency, and strong Tribal government. The Act says a State
must permit Indians to run gaming on reservations if the State permits
such gaming off reservation. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a
Tribe that wants to engage in Class III casino style gaming must first
sign a gaming Compact (or agreement) with the State where the casino
would be located. IGRA requires a State to negotiate in good faith with
the Tribe seeking a Tribal-State Gaming Compact.
In enacting IGRA,
Congress was reacting to a regulatory vacuum left by a 1987 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling (California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians) that States
have no regulatory authority over gaming on Indian reservations. That
ruling said Tribes have the right to operate
gaming on reservations if States allowed such gaming off-reservation.
The Indian Gaming
Regulatory Act of 1988 expressly granted States and the Tribes the power
to jointly regulate Class III Tribal gaming. Class III gaming includes
slot machines, blackjack, keno and other casino style games. IGRA also
created the federal National Indian Gaming Commission to oversee
reservation bingo games and certain aspects of Class III gaming.
By the early 1990s,
several Arizona Tribes had installed slot machines in their casinos even
though none of them had Tribal-State Gaming Compacts with the State. The
Arizona governor at the time, Fife Symington, said reservations
shouldn’t have casinos because Arizona didn’t allow such gambling
off-reservation. Tribes countered that Arizona did permit such gambling
by allowing state lotteries, dog and horse racing, and charity bingo
In May 1992, the
National Indian Gaming Commission issued rules clarifying that a Tribe
must have a gaming Compact with a State before the Tribe can operate
slot machines. Immediately after the rules were announced, the Arizona
Governor called on the U.S. Attorney in
to shut down casinos with the slot machines. FBI agents raided five
Indian casinos and seized their slot machines. At
casino near Scottsdale, Tribal members formed a blockade to prevent the
removal of the machines, and a three-week standoff ensued.
Against a backdrop of
legal challenges by both sides that continued for more than a decade,
Governor Symington signed
first set of Tribal-State Gaming Compacts with 16 Tribes from 1992 to
1994. The governor’s successor, Jane Hull, signed a Compact with a 17th
Tribe in 1998.
Tribal-State Gaming Compacts gave Tribes exclusive rights to operate
slot machines and casino style gaming, limited the number of slot
machines and casinos, established comprehensive rules governing gaming,
and set minimum internal control standards for casino operations. The
Compacts authorized the State of Arizona to ensure compliance with the
Tribal-State Gaming Compact and to work with Tribal regulators to
protect the integrity of Class III gaming on Tribal lands. This first
set of Compacts was in effect from 1993 to 2003.
In the November 2002
voters approved Proposition 202, which authorized the continuation of
Indian gaming. From December 2002 to January 2003, Governor Hull signed
new Tribal-State Gaming Compacts with 16 Tribes. In 2003, Governor Janet Napolitano signed
Compacts with an additional five Tribes. The Compact with each of the 21
Tribes is substantially identical. The Compacts took effect in 2003. They last for 10
years, and can be renewed for another decade and an additional term of
three years. The Compact is part of
state law in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 5-601.02.
Currently, there are
15 Tribes operating 22 Class III casinos in the State. Another 6 Tribes
do not have casinos but have slot machine rights they may lease to other
Tribes. One of Arizona’s 22 Tribes (Hopi) doesn’t have a gaming Compact.
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