Alcohol may be sold for the first time on the nation next fall when a new casino opens at the San Xavier District 10 miles south of Tucson. The nation has not sold alcoholic beverages on its lands before because of high alcoholism rates among its people. The idea is receiving widespread support from gamblers and some San Xavier residents who say it would help the nation's economic development. Gamblers say having alcohol at the casino would give them an excuse to stay here rather than travel to Las Vegas. Unlike the tribe's first two casinos, this one will feature a fancy restaurant and 2,000-seat hall for concerts, weddings and other events. Despite the support, officials urge caution. A liquor board or commission should first be developed to draw up, regulate and enforce policies, said Austin Nuez, chairman of the San Xavier District. Under their state gaming agreements, Arizona's tribes must abide by state Department of Liquor regulations, so they can't give alcohol away. The San Xavier is a "wet district,'' meaning possession and consumption of alcohol is legal, as within three of 11 districts. But today, alcohol cannot be sold anywhere on the Tohono O'odham reservation.
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