ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - While New Mexico's Indian casinos paid the state nearly $64 million in taxes during the last fiscal year, a state official said it should have been more.
"The amount of money that we speculate is owed is substantial," said David Norvell, chairman of the New Mexico Gaming Control Board. "We estimate it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million."
Norvell, a former New Mexico attorney general, said the dispute centers on players who receive comped or free play at the casinos.
"We believe the money they win should be counted for under their revenue share," he said.
The dispute may go back to the establishment of Indian casino gaming in the state in 2001 and it may involve more or less than $15 million, Norvell said. However, the gaming board doesn't know for sure on either point because the tribes refuse to turn over records that would clarify those details, he said.
News 13 called all 14 tribes who own casinos in the state, but none of them returned those calls.
Asked what the tribes think of the gaming board's interpretation, Norvell said, "Well, they don't agree with it."
Now, the gaming board wants to know who's right. So Norvell recently told the Legislative Finance Committee that he may need up to $1 million to pay for arbitrators to decide the case.
The casinos would also have to pay their share of the arbitration.
However, the state's extra money – if it exists – won't be available anytime soon. The arbitration process hasn't even begun yet and Novell said he doesn't know how long the process will last.
After subtracting the amount of cash and prizes they paid out to winners, New Mexico's Indian casinos took in $699,412,722 during the last fiscal year, according to the gaming board's web site. So far this year, the tribes earned $360,504,014, according to the web site.
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