Ducey to contract with former chief of staff on water, gaming

By: - January 17, 2019 9:02 am

Kirk Adams. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Barely a month after leaving the Ducey administration, former chief of staff Kirk Adams is going back to work for his old boss.

Gov. Doug Ducey will hire Adams as a contract employee to work on water and Indian gaming issues during the 2019 legislative session, Adams told the Arizona Mirror. Among Adams’ duties will be assisting Ducey in his goal of renegotiating Indian gaming compacts with an eye toward bringing in more revenue for the state.

He was extensively involved in both issues during his four years as Ducey’s chief of staff.

Adams has not yet signed a contract, and neither he nor Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak would comment on how much he will be paid. Ptak said the administration will make the details available once Adams’ contract is finalized, which is is expected to happen by the end of the week.

Ptak would not comment on why Ducey is contracting to Adams to work on water and gaming, rather than having his staff handle those issues.

The former chief of staff’s return to the Ducey administration comes as the governor is prioritizing water issues to start the legislative session. Ducey is urging lawmakers to approve Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan with six other states that draw water from the Colorado River basin by the Jan. 31 deadline set by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. If the state misses that deadline, the federal government may dictate how much Colorado River water the states get.

The governor has a lot of great staff when it comes to water, Adams told the Arizona Mirror. But he noted that he’s been working on water issues for the Ducey administration for two years.

“I have an immediate knowledge of those issue areas and will be working with them on it,” he said.

As for gaming, Adams said the Ducey administration has been working on a new compact for three years.

The state currently has active gaming compacts with 16 Native American tribes that operate 24 casinos in Arizona. Compacts are good for 20 years, with an extra three-year period tacked on so tribes and the state have time to renegotiate the terms before they expire. According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, most of the gaming compacts expire in 2026 or 2027, except for the Salt River Indian Community, whose compact for its two Scottsdale casinos is good until 2031.

Six other tribes that don’t operate casinos also have compacts with the state. Tribes that don’t operate casinos have the option of leasing their allocation of gaming devices to other tribes.

Though no compacts are scheduled to expire for at least seven years, Adams hinted that there may be some urgency in renegotiating them. Asked if there’s still plenty of time to work out the details of the renegotiated compacts, Adams said, “Yes and no,” though he didn’t elaborate.

Several of the tribes are currently seeking to renegotiate their gaming compacts, said Jaime Molera, a lobbyist who represents the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

Adams said the governor is “looking to see how the state can increase revenue” from tribal gaming. Molera, too, said the Governor’s Office has been clear that it’s looking to increase state revenue from gaming.

The state received $94 million in revenue from tribal gaming in the fiscal year 2018, and has received $54 million in gaming revenues so far in the current fiscal year. Since fiscal year 2004, when the current gaming compact went into effect, tribal gaming has provided nearly $1.3 billion in state revenue.

Ducey has suggested in the past that Arizona could generate more money for K-12 education through casino gaming.

One area where gaming could be potentially be expanding is sports gambling. The U.S. Supreme Court in May struck down a federal law that prohibited most sports betting outside of Nevada, giving the other 49 states the opportunity to allow gambling on sporting events.

“The environment has changed quite a bit,” Adams said.

At the time of the ruling, Ducey said he was open to the possibility of allowing sports betting in Arizona, and suggesting that it should be limited to Native American tribes.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”