After years of legal wrangling, ground finally was broken in Glendale, Arizona for the Tohono O’odham Nation’s 0 million West Valley Resort and Casino. Officials from the tribe and the cities of Glendale, Tolleson and Peoria plus more than 250 guests attended the ceremony. Tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said, “Today is a day that’s been a long time coming. This is the work of generations of the nation’s leaders—the result of a long struggle to turn a great wrong into a new opportunity for our people and for all of Arizona.”
He added the casino “is not an expansion of gaming but a fulfillment of our rights that the voters of Arizona approved.”
The new casino will create 6,000 construction and 3,000 permanent jobs and is expected to take in more than $300 million annually. The development is on land that the Tohono O’odham received as reparation for flooding caused by the Painted Rock Dam, built on the Gila River in the 1960s. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of the Interior took the land into trust on behalf of the tribe. Construction is expected to take 16 months.
The project survived 14 lawsuits over five years, as well as fierce opposition from former Glendale leaders who spent more than $3 million in legal fees and also were ordered to pay nearly $90,000 in court costs for the Tohono O’odham. Recently, however, current Glendale officials and the tribe finalized an agreement that will provide Glendale with $1.3 million a year for 20 years, including a one-time up-front payment of $500,000. The tribe also will donate $100,000 a year to the Glendale Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote Glendale and the West Valley.
The Gila River Indian Community, which owns Wild Horse Pass, the sole West Valley casino, along with other eastern Arizona tribes, spent millions of dollars lobbying federal lawmakers to block the project. Tribal leaders continue to claim the Tohono O’odham development violates a tribal agreement. Norris denies that.