If you live miles from the city of Glendale and you believe that the Tohono O’odham Nation’s neighborhood casino will have no impact on you, please think again. There’s more to this story than meets the eye – with the potential to impact every Valley resident.
You were made a promise that Indian gaming would stay on tribal lands and that casinos would stay out of your neighborhood. That promise to you is about to be broken
Last year, in a ruling the media failed to explain in any real detail, the federal government ruled that the Tohono O’odham tribe could unilaterally build its casino on ANY county island in metro Phoenix without being subject to any zoning requirements.
What does that mean? It means that the Nation, once it builds its casino in the middle of a Glendale residential neighborhood, can site three more casinos on any county island in any city in Maricopa County – without going through any zoning approval process. Nothing prevents the next Tohono O’odham casino from being built next to your home, park or your kids’ schools.
Four new casinos in the Valley is just the tip of the iceberg. Once Tohono O’odham casinos pop up, out-of-state casino giants will press hard to be allowed to have off-reservation casinos – and the Arizona Legislature will have little reason to say no, because the promise of limited gaming made by tribes to Arizona voters in 2002 to get us to approve tribal-exclusive gaming will have been broken. You’ve surely heard of the “poison pill” provision of Indian gaming, which kicks in once non-tribal interests are allowed to game. After our state swallows this “poison pill,” we’ll be well on our way to becoming America’s next Las Vegas, with non-tribal commercial gaming interests and tribes vying to locate casinos throughout the metro areas of our state.
Thus, it’s a slippery slope from a casino sited near Glendale homes, schools and daycares to multiple casinos invading neighborhoods and quiet communities.
Last year, the Salt River Pima Indian Community – one of several Arizona tribes fighting to stop this ill-conceived project – asked me to address Congress. While in Washington, I witnessed firsthand how bureaucrats in the federal government give passes to tribes to build new casinos. Although there are several state and federal requirements in place, current laws do not close legal and executive action loopholes. That gives President Obama’s Secretary of Interior a free pass to arrange for the acquisition of tribal land on which a casino can be built.
Thankfully, our Arizona congressional delegation has proposed legislation to close the loopholes to prohibit any new casinos from being built right here in Maricopa County until at least 2027, when the tribal gaming compacts expire and Arizona citizens next have the ability to decide whether or not to expand gaming in our state.
All across the state, great tribes like the Gila River Indian Community, the Salt River Indian Community, the Quechan Tribe, Hualapai Tribe and the Cocopah Tribe, among others, are fighting to keep the promise made to you. These tribes believe that a promise was made to Arizona voters to keep Indian casino gaming on reservations. Like our congressional delegation, they believe this promise must be kept.
This fight has the potential to fundamentally change the face of this community and this state and it is a fight that will impact you.
– Sal DiCiccio is a Phoenix City Council member.