Federal legislation was introduced Tuesday to try to stop the Tohono O’odham Nation from building a casino near Glendale.
The bill spearheaded by Republican Rep. Trent Franks would bar casinos on land in metro Phoenix that’s made part of the American Indian reservation system in 2013 and afterward.
The federal government declared the Tohono O’odham Nation property near Glendale a reservation in 2010, but pending litigation prevents the land from being made part of the system.
A similar bill pushed by Franks last year cleared the U.S. House, but never got a vote in the Senate.
The tribe had received $30 million to replace nearly 10,000 acres of ancestral reservation land damaged by a dam.
The tribe says the property near Glendale that it purchased in 2003 is part of that replacement program.
Glendale and tribes opposing the project argued that the Tohono O’odham Nation went “reservation shopping” and shouldn’t be allowed to turn just any piece of property into a reservation.
Jason Hauter, an attorney for the Gila River Indian Community, says Franks’ proposal is necessary because the Tohono O’odham Nation’s gambling expansion would threaten future gambling compacts by letting non-Indian gambling interests question why the tribes should be given exclusive right to gambling. Casinos in Arizona can be built only on reservations.
The Tohono O’odham Nation released a statement saying the bill is aimed at protecting the market share of other tribes with gambling and would open the door for Congress to unilaterally alter gambling compacts.