Jemez Pueblo casino proposal in Anthony, New Mexico resurfaces

Las Cruces, New Mexico (AP) July 2010

A proposal by the Jemez Pueblo tribe to build a $60 million, off-reservation casino and hotel some 300 miles from tribal land has resurfaced.

Pueblo officials and representatives of Santa Fe art dealer Gerald Peters, the developer who’s partnering with the tribe, met last week with trustees of the newly seated government in Anthony, a New Mexico town on the Texas-New Mexico border just north of El Paso.

Former Las Cruces Mayor Ruben Smith, a spokesman for Peters and the tribe, said tribal officials told Anthony officials that after being stalled for more than two years, their request for a casino is being reconsidered by the federal government.

“The application is moving forward because there’s a new administration and new people in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Interior Department,” Smith said.

Plans for an off-reservation casino started in August 2004.

The federal government in 2008, under the Bush administration, rejected the tribe’s casino request because the proposed site in southern New Mexico was too far from the community. Jemez Pueblo is 45 miles northwest of Albuquerque.

Smith said the Obama administration in May revisited the decision and reinstated Jemez Pueblo’s application.

An Interior Department spokeswoman confirmed the pueblo’s packet is under review.

Anthony Trustee James Scott said a central message of his campaign was supporting the casino because of jobs it would create. The fact that many will be entry-level service positions doesn’t matter, he said, as long as the project puts people to work.

“This is how you change poverty. You give people jobs they can do,” he said.

Jemez Pueblo hopes to build a 48,000-square-foot casino with slot machines and table games on a 70-acre site southwest of Interstate 10 and New Mexico 404. A hotel would be constructed on an adjacent 30 acres.

If the tribe gets approval, a 24,000-square-foot temporary casino would be built first.

Smith said the casino would employ about 950 people with fully paid medical insurance premiums.