Tohono O'odham Nation Continues Defending Plans for West Valley Casino; Opponents' Lawsuits Haven't Let Up

Categories: Court Date

West Valley Resort.jpg
An artist rendering of the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed westside casino
A U.S. District Court judge has scheduled a hearing on April 9 in an ongoing legal battle to block the Tohono O'odham Nation from building a casino in the West Valley.

Despite several back-to-back legal victories for the Nation, its opponents are not backing down.

"Throughout this process, the Nation has played by the rules and provided the clear facts, resulting in nine straight favorable decisions from courts and federal agencies," Chairman Ned Norris said. "Both the truth and the law are on the Nation's side, as has been demonstrated again and again in the courts."

Franks' office did not return calls for comment.

See also: Gila River Indian Community Attacks Sister Tribe With Federal Lawsuit See also: Glendale Officials Ordered to Pay Tohono O'odham Nation's Legal Fees See also: Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a West Valley Casino

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell is weighing two key issues regarding the lawsuit filed by the State of Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community against the Tohono O'odham Nation (TON) in early 2011.

One is whether land the Nation owns near 91st and Northern avenues was obtained as part of a settlement agreement reached between the tribe and the federal government in 1986. That settlement was meant to replace tribal lands devastated by flooding after the feds built a dam near San Lucy, one of the Nation's reservations near Gila Bend.

It's unclear why this particular issue is part of this lawsuit since the U.S. Secretary of the Interior decided in August 2010 that he was required -- based on that 1986 legal settlement agreement -- to take the Nation's land into trust. (Taking land into trust essentially means converting it into a reservation for the tribe.)

At that time, the Gila River Indian Community filed a lawsuit, and Judge Campbell agreed with U.S. Department of Interior officials, ruling in favor of the Nation. Opponents appealed Campbell's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court, too, sided with the Nation.

And yet, here is Judge Campbell again, considering it again.

A second issue before Campbell is whether permitting gaming on the tribe's West Valley property violates a gaming compact between tribes and the state that voters approved in 2002.

That compact outlines gaming-related details such as how many casinos and slot machines each tribe can operate, the number of card game tables and ATMs within each casino, and even how many people can sit at each poker or blackjack table.

The state and two other tribes claim that the Tohono O'odham leaders and representatives made comments made during hundreds of negotiation meetings between 1999 and 2002, agreeing there would be no more casinos in the Phoenix metro area.

The compact, however, doesn't actually say that. Or anything close to that.

Even if there had been some pinky-promise style of agreement, why wouldn't all parties involved and their hordes of attorneys make sure it was included in the gaming compact paraded in the public and approved by voters in 2002?

It wasn't a point lost on Campbell.

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My Voice Nation Help

Looks like the natives turned the tables on the pale faces and outfoxed them at their own game. Give it up Glendale, you lost. Embrace the casino and you'll make out better in the end.


Not only does the government need to rule in favor of the Tohono O'odham Nation, but the US Government needs to make good on ALL of its treaties with American Indian tribes.  It is time this nation gives them their 100% due, especially since it has no problem spending over $50 BILLION of taxpayer money in foreign aid annually.


On the other hand why did the TON not explicitly state during the compact negotiations that it wanted a casino on ANY selected replacement lands. It would have been clear upfront. It seems TON is playing as dirty as Glendale and GRIC? And why did TON secretly buy the land thru a straw party--why not buy it up front and state what they wanted. They have known since 87 that they were going to buy replacement land somewhere? But Poof! We got land next to a pro football stadium, not in the middle of nowhere near Gila Bend. Plenty of shading dealing went on there, Ned.

eric.nelson745 topcommenter

Note to City of Glendale: The resort and casino fits in well with your other plans. It'll be a win-win for all concerned. Save money and drop the lawsuit.

Note to the other tribes: There's at least room for one more. You might want to build some golf courses instead of getting in the TO's way.

Note to Trent Franks: Why don't you go and bother D.C. on gay marriage, f'rinstance? That will enhance you rep as a total dick. Oh, and did I mention that it's a cryin' shame that you survived childhood?

ExpertShot topcommenter

Gila River IC has probably guaranteed their Casino Management Company that no new casinos would open in the Phoenix area and therefore they are afraid of the impact on their contracts with that company.  There's probably a clause in the GRIC contracts which includes a large penalty if there are any further Casino openings in the Phoenix area and that's why they're fighting so hard - paying attorneys is probably a WHOLE Lot cheaper than paying their Casino Management Company the penalty.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ReggieVV Straw purchasers are often used to prevent the sales price for a piece of land from increasing simply because of who the purchaser is.  I rarely agree to sell to a law firm, a special interest organization or someone similar for this very reason.

From whom are you less likely to demand a higher sales price, Mary Jane Smith who is looking for a house to move into; or, MegaDevelopment Corporation who is buying up your entire neighborhood in order to put in high rise high end multipurpose development?

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