Arizona municipalities wouldn’t be able to run their own casinos if an Indian tribe follows through on its controversial plan to build one in the middle of the West Valley – and if a bill sponsored by Rep. Jack Harper becomes law.
But, a legislative panel killed the Harper bill that would have let cities and towns start their own casinos, provided they forfeit their portion of state-shared revenue. The House Government Committee unanimously rejected the measure.
Harper, a Republican from Surprise, said he sponsored HB2204 in order to create competition among current casinos. He also said it was a response to the casino the Tohono O’odham Nation intends to build on land that borders Glendale and Peoria.
Harper said the bill would prevent tribes from violating the 2002 gaming compact, which he said limits casinos to reservation land that existed at the time. The compact also stipulates that no new casinos would be built in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Although he said he expected the bill to fail, Harper said he wanted to call attention to the fact that the Indian tribes were not following the promises they made.
“I think the threat of competition is necessary to keep them from violating their agreement from 2002,” he said.
Although he sponsored a bill that could have expanded gambling, Harper actually does not want a casino in the West Valley at all.
“The reason why is because people then gamble instead of shopping, they gamble instead of paying their mortgage, they gamble instead of giving money to their local churches. It becomes almost a disease,” he said.
The goal of the bill was not necessarily to allow gambling, but to create a poison pill, Harper said.
“If we were to allow any type of gambling, it would take the restrictions off of the Indian tribes and they could expand what they have on their reservations,” he said. “I’m trying to have the same poison pill that, if they come off their reservations to offer gambling outside of their traditional reservation boundaries, then the cities could offer gambling.”