PHOENIX (CN) – The Gila River Indian Community wants to stop the Tohono O’odham Nation from building a casino on land in Glendale, 160 miles north of the nation’s headquarters. The tribe claims the Department of the Interior’s decision to take the land into trust for the other tribe “arbitrarily and capriciously fails to address whether the lands qualify for gaming activities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act prohibits an Indian nation from “conducting gaming on lands taken into trust … unless those lands are within or contiguous to the boundaries of the tribe’s reservation,” the tribe claims in Federal Court.
The Act is meant “to prevent tribes from … opportunistically buying commercially attractive casino sites far from their reservations and then having them designated Indian lands,” according to the complaint.
But that is exactly what the Tohono O’odham is trying to do, the Gila River tribe claims, and the federal government “has arbitrarily decided to abet this scheme.”
The Tohono O’odham announced its plans to build the casino in January 2009, and in July 2009 it withdrew its request for “a gaming-eligibility determination” under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in order to speed up the casino’s construction, according to the lawsuit.
In March, the nation filed a mandamus action to force Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to take the land into trust.
The Department of the Interior decided to take the land into trust on July 23, without “issuing any gaming determination … and without considering any of the environmental impacts that would result from the construction and operation of the proposed casino complex, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act,” the Gila River tribe claims.
The tribe says the government violated the Administrative Procedure Act “by failing to include a determination … regarding whether the land is eligible for gaming,” and by failing to comply with the Gila Bend Act, which allows the Tohono O’odham to buy up to an equal amount of private acreage to replace the reservation lands assigned to the federal government.
The Gila River Indian Community is represented by Linus Everling and Thomas Murphy of Sacaton, Ariz.
The Gila River reservation in central Arizona is shared by the Pima and Maricopa people.