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Committee passes Hull's compact bill

PHOENIX ? Indian casinos are winning the slot machine battle with racetracks in the special session of the Arizona legislature, although other problems are cropping up for an extended gaming compact

An Arizona Senate committee April 16 voted 4-1 in favor of Gov. Jane Hull's proposal, Senate Bill 1001, to continue casino gaming on Indian reservations in that state. The same committee voted 3-2 against a measure to allow the state's racetracks to operate slot machines on their premises, the Arizona Republic reported.

Gov. Hull, a Republican, negotiated the extended compact proposal with 17 of the state's gaming tribes over the past two years. The plan would raise a reported $83 million in annual revenue for the state while expanding the number of slot machines allowed at Indian casinos.

Committee members added three amendments that the Republic said could undermine the legislation's chances of passing the Senate. A prominent gaming expert agreed.

"The governor asked for an up or down vote," said Don Hulen, executive director of the Arizona Council for Problem Gambling. "She spent two and a half years negotiating this compact, and for the legislators to start to amend it, does that mean they have to go back to negotiations? The tribes, 17 different governments, collectively negotiated a compact" which Hulen said should not be tinkered with at the last minute.

Hulen added that another amendment allocating $4 million in funding for treatment of compulsive gambling problems, hastily tacked onto the bill at the last moment, was also removed after he emailed committee members on the evening of April 15.

"They really didn't know what they were talking about," Hulen told Indian Country Today. "It was just 'treatment.' They didn't talk about who was going to refer [treatment seekers], who's going to train [counselors], and all the education, awareness and prevention pieces that the tribes wanted in there to start with."

Hulen noted that Arizona tribes have been concerned about and have actively funded efforts to promote awareness of and treatment for compulsive gamblers. [See "Let the Games Begin" this page.] He said the horse-track industry also tacked on a similar last-minute amendment to its proposed bill the day before it was printed and sent to the committee.

The full Senate could vote on S.B. 1001 as early as next week, the Republic said.