Indians Begin 10-Day Campout to Guard Seized Gambling Machines
FORT McDOWELL INDIAN RESERVATION, Ariz. (AP) _ Yavapai Indians stood guard Wednesday over video gambling machines they saved from seizure by FBI agents enforcing new reservation gambling regulations.
Twenty to 30 Indians spent the night outside the casino known as ″The Fort″ watching locked vans holding 300 gambling machines federal agents and marshals tried to seize Tuesday as part of a five-reservation sweep.
They asked tribes across the state Wednesday to camp with them outside their casino.
On Tuesday, residents of this reservation on the outskirts of Phoenix trapped the agents in the casino parking lot with cars, pickup trucks and heavy equipment.
The 25 to 50 agents were allowed to leave after Gov. Fife Symington engineered a 10-day negotiating period.
″We’ll block them again,″ said Darold Haynes, who camped out in the parking lot. ″We’ll lay down in front of them if we have to, to keep them from taking too much out of our lives. They’ve taken too much already.″
New federal rules allow tribes to run casino-style gambling if their state allows such gaming in any form outside the reservation, but only if the tribes and the state negotiate a compact allowing the games.
Four tribes have a lawsuit pending in federal court to force Arizona, which opposes reservation gambling, to negotiate a compact.
The tribes maintain that because the state allows charity ″casino nights,″ the law allows them to use the video machines, most of which simulate card games or slot machines.
Indian leaders consider the issue a dispute over sovereignty, but their immediate concern was the loss of a valuable source of income for tribes fighting unemployment and poverty on reservations.
The casino at Fort McDowell brought in $19 million during the last six months, said tribal vice chairman Gilbert Jones.
A Symington aide and a state lawyer who testified at an emergency state Senate hearing Wednesday reiterated the Republican administration’s opposition to reservation gambling.
The tribe promised to camp beside the casino throughout the negotiating period and hoped protests would draw Indians from across Arizona and from other states.
″We hope that something breaks through with the talks,″ said Roddy Pilcher, a casino worker and blockade organizer. ″But basically if nothing breaks through, you’re going to have a repeat of yesterday but on a grand scale.″