Tohono O'odham Nation defends legality of casino in new case

Ongoing construction on the West Valley Resort in Glendale, Arizona. Photo from Facebook

The Tohono O'odham Nation opened another round in a gaming war with the state of Arizona on Monday.

The tribe filed a new lawsuit after the Department of Gaming said it wouldn't certify the West Valley Resort that's due to open later this year. Chairman Edward Manuel accusing the state of flouting federal law and ignoring prior court decisions that confirmed the legality of the controversial facility.

"Construction of the nation’s casino has been underway for ten months and this extreme political effort to stop this important project cannot be allowed," Manuel said in a press release. "Arizona communities, businesses and workers support this project and the nation remains committed to making sure it moves forward.”

The tribe acquired the West Valley Resort site in connection with Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act of 1986, a land claim settlement. A federal judge said that means it can be used for a casino under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Arizona Casino Wars: Tribes battle over new gaming facility in the Phoenix area

"The court finds that the LRA settled a 'land claim' within the meaning of IGRA," Judge David Campbell wrote in the May 2013 decision. "As a result, the Glendale-area land acquired by the nation with LRA funds qualifies for gaming under IGRA."

The state and two rival tribes that oppose the casino have taken the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It's possible that Campbell could be reversed but so far the Tohono O'odham Nation has won every single decision in the federal and state courts.

The new complaint in Tohono O'odham Nation v. Ducey was filed in federal court. It was accompanied by a motion for preliminary injunction that, if granted, would prevent the state from interfering with the casino.

"Remarkably, defendants have taken the position that the Arizona Department of Gaming has state-law authority to decide that the nation has engaged in conduct that 'disqualif[ies]' the nation from exercising its federal right to engage in gaming on its Indian lands," the motion states.

The tribe isn't the only party being affected by the state's actions either. The Department of Gaming has told The PENTA Building Group that it could lose its vendor license just for working on the casino.

"Not only is the threat of being disqualified from working on gaming projects in Arizona material to PENTA, as it would preclude PENTA from working on any gaming projects in Arizona, but the ADG's threat could have a 'domino' effect, as other jurisdictions might revoke or deny a license or certification to PENTA based solely on ADG's actions against PENTA's ADG certification," Jeffery Ehret, the firms' president said in an affidavit submitted with the lawsuit.

Get the Story:
Tribe sues over Ariz.’s refusal to let W.V. casino open this year (Your West Valley News 6/23)
Tribe sues state to open West Valley casino (The Arizona Republic 6/23)

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