Tohono O'odham Nation Wins Again: Federal Judge Affirms Arizona Gaming Compact Does Not Ban New Casinos in Phoenix Area
|Artist's rendering of the proposed West Valley Resort|
U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell has shot down the State of Arizona's contention that the state's gaming compact bans new casinos in the Phoenix area.
The ruling delivers the Tohono O'odham Nation yet another legal victory in their four-year battle to build a resort-style casino in the West Valley.
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Campbell plainly writes in his order that the Compact "does not contain a ban on new casinos in the Phoenix area, and its terms cannot reasonably be read to include such a ban."
Campbell's order refutes claims made in a lawsuit filed by the State of Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community against the Tohono O'odham Nation in February 2011.
In their suit, state and tribal officials claim that when gaming compact were being hashed out in 2002, Tohono O'odham Nation leaders verbally agreed, along with other Arizona tribes, that no new casinos would be built in the Phoenix metro-area.
Campbell confirmed in this ruling that language banning new casinos in the Valley is not contained in the state's voter-approved compact, a document that outlines all the rules for operating casinos in the state. For example, the compact details where ATMs can be located inside of a casino, the number of gaming machines and card tables each tribe can operate, and the state's cut of gaming revenues.
State and tribal officials opposed to the TON casino slated for 95th and Northern avenues in the West Valley insisted that the Nation was essentially engaging in a "breach of contract" with plans for the casino.
The judge had given each side another shot at making their case on the "breach of contract" claim.
When Campbell considered their arguments and reviewed Arizona laws that govern an interpretation of the Compact, he determined the Compact is "integrated." That means that all the parties involved in creating the gaming compact agreed that the written terms are the only ones that matter.
Indeed, the Compact that voters approved in 2002 specifically states that "no other statements, agreement, or promise made by any party, officer, or agent of any party shall be valid or binding."
Yet, the state and other tribes tried to argue that somehow that statement could be interpreted differently. The judge didn't buy it.
"Even if Plaintiffs could establish that a separate agreement existed between the State and the Nation, [which they didn't] they could not enforce such an agreement in the face of the fully integrated Compact," the judge wrote in his order.