Barona Tribe Delays Choice to Run Bingo

Two organizations seeking a five-year contract to operate high-stakes bingo games at the Barona Indian Reservation will present their proposals to tribal members Wednesday evening, after a Saturday meeting produced no decision.

Art Bunce, an attorney representing the Barona Band of Mission Indians, said the two firms were chosen from among nearly two dozen groups that had expressed an interest in reopening the popular games. However, only five groups made formal proposals.

Bunce said he was not authorized to identify the two finalists, but a tribal member identified them as Barona Enterprises, composed of Kansas City and San Diego investors, and a firm headed by Pete Dennis and Warren Cook, members of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe of Virginia.

After one of the firms is chosen, negotiations between the tribal council and the finalist will begin.

Bingo games, which had been operated for three years, were halted at the Barona reservation in April after the tribe voted overwhelmingly to void a contract with the former operator, American Management and Amusement Co. The firm's principals sued the tribe, claiming that the contract had been illegally breached.

A recent federal court ruling that the contract was void because it had not been approved by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed the Barona Indians to seek to reinstate the bingo games with a new operator.

The firms reportedly are seeking a five-year contract, offering a $100,000 advance payment to the tribe, 60% of profits and $40,000 monthly rental for the bingo hall.

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