On March 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit unanimously upheld that the Tohono O’odham Nation can operate a casino near Glendale, Arizona. This was the 19th consecutive decision that ruled in favor of the Nation despite heavy opposition from the state of Arizona and two Phoenix area tribes.
The ruling determined that the Tohono O’odham Nation legally built the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino on land it purchased as tribal lands more than a decade ago. The court also upheld that a 2002 gambling compact does not prohibit the casino from fully operating.
These countered the state’s argument that the compact prevented the Nation from operating a casino in the Phoenix area.
Chairman Edward D. Manuel said the ruling “leaves no doubt that the Nation has the right to move forward with Class III gaming” in order to generate approximately 3,000 jobs for West Valley families. Class III gaming includes jackpot poker, blackjack, and keno.
Manuel also asked for opponents—the state, the Gila River Indian Community, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community—to drop charges so “that we can work together in partnership to create a positive economic development…for all of Arizona.”
The Tohono O’odham Nation purchased the land in 2003 under provisions of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act of 1986. This provided the tribe with $30 million to replace nearly 10,000 acres of lands damaged after the construction and operation of the Painted Rock Dam. The dam was built in 1960 near Gila Bend, Arizona and flooded a significant portion of agricultural lands used by the tribe for economic development.
A portion of that money was used to purchase an unincorporated portion of land in Maricopa County and was later given reservation status. When the tribe announced in 2009 plans to build a casino on that parcel of land, it quickly gained opposition from local tribes and the City of Glendale.
The Attorney General’s Office has not yet announced if it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.