Arizona, Tohono O’odham Nation Settle Glendale Casino Dispute

The Tohono O’odham Nation and the State of Arizona jointly announced on Wednesday an agreement to settle their dispute regarding the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley near the City of Glendale.

Sen. John McCain praised the agreement but said he was opposed “to oppose the air-dropping of Indian casinos on land that is not contiguous to an existing reservation, the agreement reached by Governor Ducey and the Tohono O’odham Tribe brings to an end years of prolonged litigation over this issue and eliminates the need for federal legislation. The controversy involving the Tohono O’odham gaming facility in Glendale has divided Arizona’s Indian tribes for years, and I hope this agreement will heal those divisions.”

Under this agreement, the Nation will move forward with Class III gaming at its West Valley facility under the tribal-state gaming compact. The State will process the West Valley facility’s Class III gaming certification and liquor license in the normal course of the regulatory process. The State has also agreed that it will not oppose the Nation’s efforts to have its land immediately adjacent to the West Valley facility taken into trust.

In exchange, the Nation has agreed not to conduct Class II or Class III gaming anywhere else in a designated geographical area that includes metropolitan Phoenix during the term of the agreement. Additionally, although the Nation will retain its ability to acquire new reservation land under the terms of Public Law 99-503, known as the “Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act,” the Nation also has agreed not to request that the Secretary of the Interior take any other land in that area into trust for the purpose of gaming during the agreement term. These restrictions will terminate if federal or state legislation is enacted that bars the Nation from conducting Class II or Class III gaming on the West Valley land, or if another tribe conducts Class III gaming on new trust lands in the designated geographical area.

As part of the agreement, the State and the Nation will amend their existing compact to confirm that the Nation may conduct Class III gaming at one gaming facility on its West Valley land, but nowhere else within the designated geographical area. This compact amendment must be reviewed and approved or deemed approved by the Secretary of the Interior before the settlement agreement becomes effective.

This agreement will last for the remainder of the term of the Nation’s current tribal-state gaming compact plus the term of any successor compact or, if there is no successor compact, for 15 years after this agreement becomes effective.

The agreement puts to rest the last pending lawsuit over the West Valley facility without any further legislative or legal action. As part of the agreement ending the litigation, all parties will bear their own attorneys’ fees for all of the legal proceedings relating to this dispute.

Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward D. Manuel said, “This is a day the Nation has long been working toward. It establishes an agreement concerning the Nation’s right to conduct Class III gaming on its West Valley land and it brings to an end the final dispute that was constraining this important project. The Nation is eager to continue with its West Valley investment to create thousands of new jobs, positive economic development, and a world-class casino resort that all of Arizona can be proud of.”

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