Tohono O’odham tribe announce $400m casino development

By Robert Simmons
The Tohono O’odham Tribal Nation has today announced that construction of a $400m casino resort in Glendale, Arizona has now started, bringing to an end a decade-long casino development saga.

Officials have confirmed the expansion of the existing Desert Diamond Casino site will begin by the end of the year and take 20 months to complete, with the casino remaining open during the first construction phase.

The new resort will be built to the north of the current casino, with the current building being turned into a possible warehouse once the first phase of construction is completed.

In an interview with The Peoria Times, Andy Asselin CEO of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise said: “This has been a long time coming, and we will continue to work with the community to ensure that construction proceeds smoothly.”

This announcement follows the settlement of a lengthy legal dispute earlier this year between tribal officials and the state of Arizona over the operation of table and slot gaming at the Desert Diamond Casino property.

The dispute began in 2009 when state officials opposed the application by the tribe to build a large casino on land they had purchased near the University of Phoenix, 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 Class III certification required to operate full-fledged gambling.

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.

Under the terms of the May settlement between the two parties, state authorities granted a 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.

The expansion of the existing Desert Diamond casino will occupy over one million square-feet, including five restaurants and 75,000 square-feet of casino floor with 1,089 Class III slots, live poker, blackjack and bingo, and creating over 3,000 jobs in the local area.

In a statement announcing the commencement of the project, Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Edward Manuel said: “With this announcement, we are moving forward with our promise to create new jobs and positive economic opportunity for members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the West Valley and the citizens of Arizona.

"This beautiful new facility will be a positive economic engine for decades to come.”

Picture: Tohono O'odham nation
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