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Gambling a go in Glendale as tribe, state strike accord

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The Tohono O’odham Nation will finally be able to conduct full-scale gaming at its new casino in Glendale.

In an agreement announced this morning, the state will give up on its contention that the tribe acted illegally in building a casino in the Phoenix area. That has resulted in the state Department of Gaming refusing to provide the necessary certification for operation of a full-blown casino.

The facility has been open since last year. But while the devices available look like slot machines, they essentially are a form of interlinked bingo, something considered Class II gaming, which federal law blocks the state from controlling.

True slot machines and table games like blackjack and poker, all forms of Class III gaming, have until now been prohibited because of state action.

In exchange, the tribe is agreeing that it will not attempt to open any more casinos in the Phoenix area. There had been some legal question about whether a 1986 federal law actually permitted such a move.

Today’s agreement also politically undermines efforts by some Republican members of Congress to thwart the tribe’s Glendale casino by retroactively amending that 1986 law.

In a prepared statement, tribal Chairman Edward Manuel said today’s agreement caps years of efforts.

“It establishes an agreement concerning the nation’s right to conduct Class III gaming on its West Valley land and it brings to an end the final dispute that was constraining this important project.

That includes not just building a real casino — the current one is operating in what eventually would be a warehouse — but also plans for a resort.

Gov. Doug Ducey, in his own statement, said he was glad to finally extinguish the years of litigation between the state and the tribe.

While the state never wanted a casino in Glendale — there were multiple legal efforts to block it — the governor said a key concern was making sure that situation was not replicated elsewhere.

“This agreement … ensures that there are meaningful restrictions on additional casinos in the greater Phoenix metro area,” Ducey said. “It is time for us to move forward.”

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