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Yakama casino GM resigns amid dispute

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TOPPENISH, Wash. (AP) – The general manager of the Yakama Nation casino in central Washington has resigned amid questions over whether the Indian tribe can legally distribute money from casino profits to tribal members.

Michael Hoptowit submitted his resignation March 30. Casino spokesman Dale Drury said Hoptowit’s departure was due in part to a dispute he had with the tribe’s gaming commission, but that he also wants to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

“It’s just unfortunate that all this happened about the same time,” Drury told the Yakima Herald-Republic. “He’s young, and he’s got a good resumé and I think he’ll just move forward.”

Tribal leaders have been grappling with a request to give each tribal member in the 10,000-member tribe a one-time payment of $1,400 from casino profits.

Members each received a one-time payment of $2,000 from casino profits in December, but some tribal leaders wondered whether it was legal because the tribe lacks a federally approved plan to allow it to give members a share of casino profits.

Investigators with the National Indian Gaming Commission in Washington, D.C., visited the casino not long after the money was handed out, Drury said.

The federal commission refused to comment. Hoptowit couldn’t be reached for comment.

Hoptowit started at the casino as a floor supervisor just months after it opened in 1998 and worked his way up to general manager in 2003. He is not an enrolled tribal member.

The casino has more than 1,000 slot machines, a poker room and blackjack and roulette tables.

Based on the amounts given to local police and fire agencies and nonprofit groups, the casino netted more than $69.4 million from table games and 671 slot machines in 2005.

That doesn’t count another 375 slot machines that fall under a different gaming classification not covered by its state gaming compact, nor revenue generated from food and beverage sales.

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