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NEWS 18 May 2017
Tohono O’odham tribe reaches settlement with Arizona
By Robert Simmons
Arizona’s Tohono O’odham nation has settled a year long dispute with state authorities over gaming and alcohol licensing at its Desert Diamond Casino West Valley near Glendale.

The first dispute began in 2009 when the tribe bought land near to the University of Phoenix stadium, applying to place the land into trust with the federal government. It later revealed its intention to build a large casino on the site.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey opposed the tribe’s application, claiming that this violated an existing 2003 compact agreement with the state, which prohibited the building of casinos in the Phoenix metropolitan area without state approval.

A bitter legal battle ensued and in 2015, the tribe opened a casino in nearby Glendale but state authorities denied the tribe the required Class III certification to operate full-fledged gambling, stopping them from offering more lucrative table gaming and slot machines.

Tribal officials sued the state in federal court and instead opened the Desert Diamond casino with a Class II licence, offering bingo-style slots and without the selling of alcohol.

The new settlement between the two parties will result in state authorities granting the Class III certification to the tribe’s Desert Diamond casino on the condition that they not conduct Class II or Class III activities anywhere else in the Phoenix metropolitan area for a period of 15 years.

It also states that Arizona authorities will not oppose the tribe’s application to have the disputed second casino site placed into trust with the federal government.

In a statement confirming the arrangement, 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 ability 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.”

Governor Doug Ducey said that the agreement represented an important first step to the reasonable restriction of future casino developments within Phoenix, saying “It is time for us to move forward together.”

He also invited the Tohono O’odham tribe to sign a December 2015 gambling agreement that had already been signed by 10 other tribes within the state, giving them greater casino gaming options in exchange for not building further casinos.

Ducey added: “I am eager to continue meeting with gaming tribes to discuss how we can modernise the tribal-state gaming compacts and create positive economic opportunities for all Arizonans. I welcome the Tohono O’odham Nation to this process.”

RELATED TAGS: Land-Based | Casino | Legal & Regulatory
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