Voters To Decide Which Gaming Initiative Is Best Bet

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Voters have three choices on Indian gaming in the Nov. 5 general election.

Three propositions, 200, 201 and 202, all proclaim they will help Indian tribes and provide a portion of gaming revenues for services throughout Arizona.

Prop. 200 comes from the Colorado River Indian Tribe. It provides for equal gaming opportunities for all of Arizona's tribes. Each tribe may have up to three casinos and 1,000 gaming devices, except for the Tohono O'odham and Gila River, where there are already 1,400 devices in operation. Additional devices may be obtained through transfers from nongaming tribes for the first five years. After Jan. 1, 2008, any tribe can transfer all or portions of their device allocation. Beginning in 2005 the number of gaming devices allowed will increase based on statewide population.

The term of the gaming compacts would be for 20 years, with a 20-year renewal option.

The contribution of gaming funds to public programs is estimated at $40 million per year in Prop. 200. Of this, 75 percent will be used for education and senior health care and other senior services. The balance will go to the Arizona Department of Gaming for gaming oversight.

Prop. 201 is from the Coalition for Arizona, with principal funding from Turf Paradise and American Greyhound Racing. It is the proposition using the "Joe Arizona" character as its spokesman.

The primary thrust of Prop. 201 is to allow racetracks to have slot machines and provides for up to 10 tracks in the state, with no more than two in any single county. Each track would have 950 machines. It provides for all tribes to have a total of 19,600 slot machines, with up to 2,400 machines per tribe, allowing nongaming tribes to transfer their allocation. Proponents of Prop. 201 say it will put $300 million a year back into the state economy, including $70 million for education and $40 million for health care, plus money to reduce the state's deficit, though the amount is not specified.

Prop. 201 proposes to strengthen gambling regulations and force casinos to open their books.

The duration of the regulations proposed in Prop. 201 is 10 years.

Prop. 202 the 17-Tribe Initiative comes from the Arizonans for Fair Gaming and Indian Self-Reliance.

It is a modified form of the proposed bill offered the Legislature by the governor to provide for the renewal of the Indian gaming compacts, which expire in August 2003. This legislation was the result of more than two years of work by the governor and representatives from a majority of Arizona's tribes.

It will allow gaming to continue on tribal lands, providing revenue to both gaming and nongaming tribes. It also makes contributions to social, emergency and government services in the communities neighboring the tribal lands, plus wildlife and conservation programs. It includes additional funding for gaming regulation.

The coalition of 17 tribes backing Prop. 202 represents 90 percent of all Native Americans living on reservations in Arizona.

Prop. 202 allocates each tribe a specific number of gaming devices. Those nongaming tribes who wish to do so, may transfer their allocation to gaming tribes for payments that could total millions of dollars to benefit their members and contribute to neighboring communities.

The number of gaming devices is limited to 998 per facility, not to exceed 15,675 statewide, with an increase allowed every five years, based on the state's total population. Prop. 202 has a term of 23 years.

What gaming means to the Rim country

According to Jim Gannarelli, chief executive officer of the Mazatzal Casino in Payson, the facility's benefits to the community are substantial.

It directly employs 280 people.

If it is shut down, 320 people, including vendors servicing the facility, will be displaced.

Salaries, not including benefits, total about $6 million.

The casino is self-insured, so about $4.5 million is contributed to the medical industry of Payson.

Three years ago, an economic impact study on the casino showed it contributed $12 million to the Payson economy.

The leaders of the Tonto Apache Tribe worked with Gov. Jane Hull in developing Prop. 202 and the casino is contributing funds to promote its passage.

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