Gila River Comm. to vote on sharing casino revenues with members 6-17-07

PHOENIX (AP) - The Gila River Indian Community will vote Tuesday on whether to distribute money from its three casinos to members of the community.

The community doesn't give members per capita payments.

Philbert Soroquisara, a Gila River member who helped get the initiative on the ballot, said it's time for some of that money to be distributed among members, especially the estimated 7,000 members who live off the reservation and can't take advantage of reservation hospitals and other services.

Alia Maisonet, the community's spokeswoman, said giving each adult member quarterly checks would be very expensive for the community of 20,000 and might force the government someday to cut back on other programs.

“If we kept the Gila River programs like they are, yes, we could afford per capita. However, looking a few years down the line, it would impact the community,” Maisonet said. “To what extent we are not sure.”

If the initiative passes, it probably would be at least a year before members would begin seeing money. The community would have to develop a payment plan and get it approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and its own council.