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Brewer seeks to join Glendale casino lawsuit

The site in Glendale where the Tohono O’odham Nation wants to build a casino. (Cronkite Borderlands Initiative)

The site in Glendale where the Tohono O’odham Nation wants to build a casino. (Cronkite Borderlands Initiative)

Glendale’s most prominent politician wants to join the city’s bid to stop the Tohono O’odham from building a casino just outside city limits.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Dec. 3 filed paperwork with the U.S. District Court asking to join the lawsuit, which aims to stop the tribe from building the casino on non-reservation land. Brewer has been a vocal opponent of the casino.

In a proposed amicus brief filed by the Governor’s Office, Brewer said the casino would violate Arizona’s 10th Amendment rights and the Indian Commerce Clause, as well as undermine Proposition 202, the Indian gaming agreement approved by voters in 2002.

“As chief executive of Arizona, the governor has the responsibility to safeguard the state’s territorial integrity and its prerogative to assert sovereign control over all of its lands,” according to the brief. “In addition, Gov. Brewer has an abiding interest in ensuring that federal law is not interpreted to authorize an Indian tribe to disregard a carefully crafted agreement like Proposition 202, create a satellite reservation far from its population base and use it to conduct gaming near the middle of the state’s largest metropolitan area.”

Brewer noted in the brief that she does not believe that voters anticipated off-reservation gaming when they approved Proposition 202, writing that the Tohono O’odham’s plans would open the door for more casinos in urban areas. She also pointed out that voters were assured when the approved the ballot measure that casinos would not be built in cities.

The U.S. Department of the Interior did not determine whether the plans violated federal Indian gaming laws when it agreed to designate a 54-acre parcel near 91st and Northern Avenues as a reservation, nor whether it violated the provisions of a land-swap deal that gave the tribe control of the land in 1986, according to the brief.

Brewer also argued that the land cannot become part of an Indian reservation because if it is “within the corporate limits of any city or town,” though there is some dispute over whether the land qualifies as part of the city. Glendale spokesman Jennifer Stein said the 54-acre parcel is outside of the city limits, but it is part of a 131-acre parcel that crosses into city land.

If U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell allows Brewer to intervene in the lawsuit, she will join a handful of state lawmakers who have already filed suit. In November, Campbell ruled that House Speaker Kirk Adams, House Majority Leader John McComish, House Majority Whip Andy Tobin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray could join the suit, though he rejected 12 other lawmakers’ requests to do so.

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