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October 5, 2008


DEMING, NM - The Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma moved a step closer to opening their Apache Homelands Casino, east of Deming off Interstate 10, when the National Indian Gaming Commission filed a court document last week withdrawing the federal government's previous position. The document said the NIGC was "in the process of reviewing and reconsidering" its opinion based on a new argument presented by the tribe.

Early this year the tribe asked the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma to force federal officials to issue a reservation proclamation for their Akela property, which would help their casino efforts. In May the NIGC submitted their written opinion about why Akela did not qualify under federal law. That document has now been formally withdrawn from the court.

"I believe it means they're reconsidering their decision the land was not appropriate for gaming," said Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Houser. He believes this is a positive step.

The tribe has built a 6,000 square-foot casino off Interstate 10 about 40 miles west of Las Cruces, where they want to operate Class II electronic bingo machines. They are currently operating a smoke shop and cafe on the property.

Gov. Bill Richardson remains opposed to gaming on that site. His spokesman, Gilbert Gallegos, said "Fort Sill does not have any legal rights to operate gaming activities in New Mexico. Gov. Richardson will continue to aggressively resist any efforts by the tribe to operate an illegal casino in New Mexico."

The Fort Sill Apaches are descendants of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches, who once roamed southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northern Mexico. They were relocated as prisoners of war to Florida and later to Fort Sill, Oklahoma in the late 1800s.

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