Even though Arizona’s Tohono O’Odham Nation has broken ground on a casino in Glendale, Governor Doug Ducey declared that if it opens as planned in December the state may decline to certify its slot machines.
He is basing his decision on the claim that the tribe deceived the public about its intentions when voters approved of gaming compacts in 2002. The public narrowly approved the compacts because they were told that no more than seven casinos would be built in the valley that includes Phoenix.
In exchange for those restrictions voters granted tribes a monopoly on offering gaming. The governor and other opponents claim that then-Chairman Ned Norris planned to violate that principle even as voters were given the assurance that gaming would be limited.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs moved forward on a bill that would prevent the Tohono O’odhams from operating the casino. The bill, called the Keep the Promise Act, is being carried by the state’s two U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. An identical bill is also moving forward in the House, where the House Natural Resources Committee approved it in March.
It seeks to prevent the Tohonos from operating the $400 million West Valley Resort on land the Bureau of Indian Affairs put into trust almost a year ago. The bill would prevent its operation until 2027, when the current tribal-state gaming compact runs out.
The casino is also opposed by two tribes whose market would be pierced by the rival operation: the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. All have been unsuccessful in challenging the casino in federal court.