Tribe Deal Didn’t Bar Phoenix-Area Casinos

     PHOENIX (CN) – The Tohono O’odham Nation’s plan to build a casino near Glendale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, complies with the state’s gaming compact, a federal judge ruled.
     The Arizona attorney general and the Gila River Indian Community sought to stop the Tohono O’odham from building the casino, claiming such plans violated a 2002 gaming contract between the state and the Tohono O’odham.
     U.S. District Judge David Campbell granted the nation summary judgment on most claims last week.
     “The court finds that the state could not reasonably expect a ban on Phoenix-area casinos to flow from the compact,” Campbell wrote.
     Arizona had claimed that its deal included a compromise that allowed the nation to build one of four casinos at least 50 miles from Tucson.
     “Implicit in this compromise, the state argues, was the understanding that the Nation, as a Tucson-area tribe, would have no right to open a casino in the Phoenix area,” Campbell explained.
     Campbell concluded, however, that the compact does not preclude the nation from building new casinos in the Phoenix area, such as the Glendale casino, which would lie 160 miles north of the nation’s headquarters.
     “It requires only that one of the nation’s four casinos be operated at least 50 miles from Tucson, and that the casino have limited devices and tables,” Campbell wrote.
     Campbell did call for additional briefing to determine whether the plaintiffs can pursue a claim that, “even if the parties did not agree to prohibit a new casino in the Phoenix area, the nation knew that the state and the voters understood there would be no such casino under the compact.”
     After the compact was reached, “a coalition of tribes proposed a ballot initiative, called Proposition 202, that set out the precise wording of the gaming compact and required the Governor to enter into the compact with any requesting tribe,” according to the ruling.
     Voters who passed Proposition 202 were allegedly told the compact would result in no new Phoenix-area casinos.
     “The evidence suggests that the nation knew or had reason to know of these views because it participated directly in the campaign that made these representations,” Campbell wrote.
     According to the state’s complaint, the Tohono O’odham bought about 135 acres of land near Glendale through a Delaware corporation, Rainier Resources, in August 2003. The nation announced plans to build the casino in 2009.

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