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U.S. House, Senate panels forward bills to halt Glendale casino development

Representatives of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Glendale and other organizations broke ground in August on the tribe’s planned $400 million casino resort in the West Valley. (Cronkite News photo by Linxiao Li)

Representatives of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Glendale and other organizations broke ground in August on the tribe’s planned $400 million casino resort in the West Valley. (Cronkite News photo by Linxiao Li)

Bills that would halt construction on a Tohono O’odham casino in Glendale passed committees in both the House and the Senate Wednesday.

The Keep the Promise Act of 2015 – introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale – would “prohibit gaming activities on certain Indian land in Arizona until the expiration of certain gaming compacts” in 2027.

“I am pleased the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has advanced this legislation in the Senate,” McCain said in a statement released by his office after the bill passed the committee on a voice vote.

“I introduced this bill because of objections raised by a number of Arizona mayors and other local elected officials who do not approve of this or any other Indian casino being airdropped into their communities,” his statement said.

The House bill, passed by a subcommittee last month, was formally sent to the full House Wednesday.

Tohono O’odham officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but have repeatedly criticized what they call the “job-killing legislation” by Franks and McCain. The West Valley Resort and Casino would create an estimated 3,000 permanent jobs, said the tribe, which broke ground on the project last year.

“After the Nation has consistently followed the law, it is shameful for the Senate to consider breaking the federal government’s word, and placing taxpayers on the hook for this special interest earmark,” said Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris in a statement posted on the tribe’s web site.

“If this legislation passes, all tribes should question whether Congress can be trusted to keep its word in land and water rights settlements,” the statement said.

But other tribes welcomed the vote Wednesday. The Tohono O’odham project is opposed by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa, Gila River and Fort McDowell Yavapai tribes, which all have casinos in the Valley.

“The community stands united with the governor of Arizona, the attorney general, many city leaders in the Phoenix area, and tribal leaders throughout the state, in confirming that voters never intended to have ‘casino reservations’ created by a tribe in the middle of a city, more than 100 miles away from its reservation,” said Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Delbert Ray Sr. in a statement Wednesday.

“Additionally, this legislation is consistent with the state’s position that principles of fraud and misrepresentation nullify any contention that the Tohono O’odham Nation may create a new casino reservation in the middle of Glendale, at a site across the street from a public high school,” Ray’s statement said.

The statement from the Gila River Indian Community said that without action from Congress, the Tohono O’odham could build three other casinos on other off-reservation lands they have in Maricopa.

But the Tohono O’odham have pointed to a Congressional Budget Office report on the House version of the bill that said the tribe would likely sue Congress if the bills passed, which could ultimately cost taxpayers up to $1 billion in litigation and settlements.

“This announcement by the CBO – a nonpartisan agency which produces independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues – calls into question why fiscally conservative members of Congress would want to support this legislation,” the tribe said in a statement last week.

That statement quoted Norris as charging the bills’ backers with “working so hard to send Arizona workers to the unemployment line.”

“Now we also are trying to understand why they would be willing to make American taxpayers foot the bill for creating this job-killing legislation, all to protect the market share of a few wealthy special interests,” his statement said.



  1. As a westside resident of Maricopa County, I am appalled at Senators McCain and Trent at the length they will go to prevent an Indian tribe from utilizing their reservation land for economic development. I am also disappointed in Governor Ducey, who was elected on a promise of more jobs and promotion of new business. Instead we are seeing how easily these men are influenced by other interests. This issue should be a “no brainer” whether a casino is built 20 miles or 100 miles. Mayors of the cities in western Maricopa support the building of a casino on the westside and all of the jobs a resort will bring. I have not heard from other mayors stated in this articles.
    Who is behind this legislation besides these two legislators? Let it go to voter ballot and we will see what voters think?

  2. Where are the chambers of commerce of this economic development issues and why are they not supporting this economic development initiative? That is a serious question for chambers who are pro-business.

  3. Isn’t the grand irony in all of this that the federal governement is telling a Native American tribe that they broke their promise? Really? Do we want to even go there?

  4. The citizens of Arizona are STILL being lied-to by politicians! As of THE INDIAN CITIZENSHIP ACT OF 1924, there are no more “Indians” within the original meaning of the United States Constitution. The citizens of Arizona must demand from our elected politicians an answer to this question: WHERE IS THE PROCLAMATION RATIFIED BY 1/3RD OF THE VOTERS OF THE UNITED STATES THAT AMENDS THE U.S. CONSTITUTION TO MAKE THE HEALTH, WELFARE, SAFETY AND BENEFITS OF A SELECT GROUP OF U.S./STATE CIIZENS DISTINGUISHABLE BECAUSE OF THEIR INDIAN ANCESTRY/RACE? Sincerely, Paul R. Jones-Federal Indian Programs Consultant and Researcher.

  5. What about the Lone Butte casino built by Gila River in 2008? Wasn’t that after the promise was made in 2002?

  6. Dear Don,
    I suggest your re-read my April 30, 2015, statement. Your question has no meaning. There are no more “Indians” post citizenship….only U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” entitled to no more and no less that every other non-Indian U.S./State citizen. Arizona’s Prop.202 was cleaver fallacious logic argument of the “Oh. Poor Me” written by politicians/gaming advocates from Las Vegas and Atlantic City lie foisted off on the citizens of Arizona touting “Oh. Poor Indian citizens. “Oh. The bad white man did use wrong” is designed to get sympathy and nothing more….sadly, it worked!! Each year, Congress spends some $8-billion tax dollars to support some “Oh. Poor Indians” 1.9-million enrolled ‘tribal’ members and that $8-billion does not take into account the whereabouts of the $28+billions dollars each year from “Indian casinos!” No other U.S./State citizen perpetually receives such largess from U.S. taxpayers because of their “ancestry/race!” Paul R. Jones-Federal Indian Programs Consultant and Researcher

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