Attorneys for the Tohono O’Odham Nation want a federal judge to force the state to issue Class III licensing for the tribe’s casino in western Maricopa County.
On Thursday attorney for the Tohono, Danielle Spinelli, told U.S. District Judge David Campbell that after years of unsuccessful efforts by the state to prevent the Glendale, Arizona casino from opening, and now its attempt to dictate and manage the type of gambling the Nation is permitted to operate that, “At some point, I think it’s time to say ‘enough is enough.’”
To ensure a December opening, the Nation decided the $200 million Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Resort would be designated a Class II gambling facility, operating bingo games and certain electronic gaming, rather than the originally planned for Class III license which allows for traditional casino gaming such as slot machines as well as various card games, according to Spinelli. Tohono O’Odham Chairman Edward Manuel, said “We had to switch to Class II because on Class II the state does not have jurisdiction, no regulatory authority over Class II,” as obtained on news.azpm.org. The decision resulted from a notice given to the tribe in April by Daniel Bergin, the state gaming department director that certification would not be given for the facility’s operation as a casino.
A letter from Governor Doug Ducey to Bergin in April regarding the Tohono O’Odham’s failure to notify the state of its intent to open a casino in the Phoenix area during gambling compact negotiations was fraudulent, and the state would be within its rights to nullify the tribe’s compact, served as a motivator for Bergin’s position on the matter. In 2013 Judge Campbell ruled that the casino does not violate a 2002 federal gaming compact, a decision which is being appealed.
The state’s attorneys want the tribe’s case dismissed by Campbell because of its nature regarding the application of the gambling compact which should be in arbitration rather than in federal court. Attorney for the state, Matthew McGill said, “The nation has been constructing the West Valley Resort at a breakneck pace, pouring in millions or hundreds of millions of dollars,” and that, “Bergin gave them fair warning.”
The judge noted that a decision regarding gambling compact compliance by the casino had not yet been made, and that requests by both sides to rule on the scope of the compact and the state’s ability to prevent licensing would be decided within several weeks.