Fort Mojave Indian Tribal Chairman Tim Williams warned Bullhead City Council members of a “black cloud” in their relationship with the tribe if a second agreement between the city and Marnell Gaming for support services for a 2019 river regatta was approved.
“That dark cloud is going to be out there and you don’t want to have a dark cloud with some of the senior water rights holders in our area,” Williams told council members during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
Nonetheless, members voted unanimously to grant the Rotary Park reservation and park services agreement with the Laughlin River Regatta 2019.
The city also agreed to the contract with Marnell being assigned to Golden Entertainment, which is in the process of acquiring Marnell properties Edgewater Casino Resort and Colorado Belle Casino Resort in Laughlin.
The 2019 agreement also caps the number of participants at 18,000, down from the 2018 agreement of 22,000 participants. The commitment to river cleanups, a trash plan, a U.S. Coast Guard permit and coordination for necessary public safety support are the same as the 2018 agreement.
The city sold its marketing, social media and some physical assets of the River Regatta to Marnell Gaming Group last year, giving the event a new lease on life a year after council voted to end the event due in part to numerous complaints from the public and FMIT regarding environmental, safety and other issues.
Marnell’s commitment to mitigating those concerns by holding multiple river cleanups at its own cost before, during and after the event included donating $1,000 to nonprofit groups that provided volunteers to remove trash.
“It was a very productive way to involve the entire community in getting this river cleaned up on a year-round basis and I’m really proud of that,” said Marnell Gaming Chairman and CEO Anthony Marnell in his remarks to council members. “It’s very important to me, I expressed that to you a year ago that we do what we say we’re going to do and in my humble opinion I think that we exceeded the expectations of what people thought we could accomplish here.”
Council approved an agreement with Marnell Gaming Group last year for the sale of the city’s marketing, social media and some physical assets of the River Regatta and approved a park use agreement for a Marnell-run event, which took place in August.
FMIT has been the most vocal and united critic of the regatta in recent years and staged a protest of the 2018 Laughlin River Regatta.
Williams also told council if the event is ended he hoped the tribe, the city, Golden Entertainment and Laughlin could pull together and create a large event like no other.
“I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit and it really comes down to, is it worth it,” Williams said. “Like we said a year ago, this event is going to split this community; it sure did, I know especially down there within our valley.”
Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter agreed that the issue is divisive and that the difference of opinion between city leadership and tribal leadership is clear.
“The event is approved to go forward,” Cotter said. “(The tribe) had a very peaceful protest and I’m sure they’ll do another peaceful protest, but we have way more in common than one event and it’s our hope that this one event doesn’t define us, that there is way more to our relationship than this. We live here, we are together. I agree that we should keep working on it and find more things that we have in common than the one thing we don’t have in common.”