A long-running casino battle between the state of Arizona and the Tohono O’odham Nation continues as the tribe is now seeking sanctions against the state based on destroyed documents. Documents that detailed interactions between the state and opposing tribes of the Tohono O’odham were destroyed and the state admitted to this action.
A deposition from August 23 revealed the state had admitted the documents were destroyed as they included the interaction between the state and tribes, though the state attorney general says it was mostly the opposing tribes who wanted to keep things secret.
The opposing tribes seem to be the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community, both who have been unsuccessful in trying to block the Tohono O’odham Nation’s casino, the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort, from opening. The venue opened back in December. The deposition mentioned was taken from a lawsuit of which the tribes are not part of.
However, the efforts against the casino by the tribes have been connected to the state’s efforts. Reportedly, the tribes entered a ‘common interest agreement’ with the office of the Arizona Attorney General, Roger Banan. However, during the deposition, Banan claimed that he did not read the document before he signed it.
Separately, during the lawsuit, the presiding judge made the Tohono O’odham Nation hand in internal documents to the state. These documents were then in the hands of the attorney general who gave the documents to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The public relations firm of the tribe handed the documents over to a reporter.
Judge David Campbell has called the close ties between the opposing tribes and the state troubling and ordered the state to turn in an email that explained how the anti-casino efforts were worked out with the Gila River Indian Community.
In a motion for sanctions, the Tohono O’odham Nation wrote that the meetings between the regulator and tribal representatives raised serious questions involving regulatory fairness. The motion was filed on Sept. 14 and a decision has yet to be made by the judge.
While the tribe has been able to open their gaming venue in the state, the venue still does not have Class III gaming certification of which the tribe has been denied. In the lawsuit, the tribe is fighting for this classification as well.