Navajo president vetoes law to open window for gambling
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo President Kelsey Begaye vetoed a law designed to open a window for reservation gambling – something that has been rejected by tribal members twice already.
Begaye said in his veto message Friday that the law passed by the Navajo Nation Council, the tribe’s legislative body, was too vague.
”There was simply too many unanswered questions on the resolution,” he wrote. ”I must practice the greatest prudence and caution, because I’m upholding the rights and wills of the people.”
There had been earlier reports that Begaye supported the resolution passed by the council but Begaye disputed that, saying he only supported full debate and discussion of the issue.
The vetoed law would have made amendments to the tribe’s criminal code to allow the nation to consider gambling initiatives for economic development.
Since the current code makes casino-style gambling a crime within the Navajo Nation, such initiatives couldn’t be considered again unless the law were changed.
Supporters said they were simply providing a window of opportunity for Navajos to look at casino gambling as an economic driver in the future.
But Begaye said the law did not define which units of Navajo government could initiate gambling operations, opening the door for community governments or even school boards to consider building casinos.
Several Navajo communities, primarily in the New Mexico portion of the reservation, have expressed interest in opening casinos.
A call to the sponsor of the resolution, Delegate Richard T. Begay Jr. of Two Grey Hills, was not immediately returned on Tuesday.
Navajo voters rejected gambling initiatives in 1994 and 1997, and Begaye vetoed a similar gambling resolution in August. Gambling has met resistance among some Navajos, who have an anti-gambling tradition, and others who fear casinos would prey on tribal members rather than draw new money to the reservation.