An agreement that would lift restrictions on the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort in Glendale and give additional gaming opportunities to 10 other tribes in the state was announced by Governor Doug Ducey’s (pictured) office on Monday.
The agreement amends tribal gaming compacts that the state’s voters authorized in 2002 and would formally block any new casinos in the metro Phoenix area. If the Tohono O’odham Nation agrees to the deal, it would allow the tribe’s Glendale, Arizona casino to offer Class III games such as random number generated slots. The deal, however, is officially between all of the tribes and the state and so far 10 tribes are planning to sign the agreement that would allow them to add keno games and additional poker tables if they too agree to limit gaming to their existing reservations, according to AZ Family.com.
In 2009, the Tohono O’odham Nation purchased 135 acres of land near the University of Phoenix and announced its plan to build a casino, offsetting the 2002 law that was believed to limit the amount of casinos in metro Phoenix. That decision led to years of legal challenges, including nearly 20 lawsuits, culminating with the long-awaited opening of the Desert Diamond casino in December 2015. The casino opened, but with bingo-style slots and no card tables or a state liquor license, as the state and the tribe remain locked in an ongoing battle in federal court regarding the casino.
The current deal has been in the works since early in the year as the state has been negotiating its terms with the Tohono O’odham, according to Governor Ducey’s Chief of Staff Kirk Adams, who told reporters, “We’re hopeful that the Tohono O’odham will agree to sign the amendment, as it is what they have been asking for, which is a Class 3 facility designation for their casino in Glendale.” He added, “This provides them that. It allows the Tohono O’odham, the state and the other tribal nations to move on to more productive conversations around modernizing the gaming compact,” according to the Albuquerque Journal.
In a statement, the tribe said that is it prepared to consider the proposal but that it had also just last week been made aware of the proposed gaming compact amendments requested by the state. The tribe’s statement criticized the state for not including tribal officials in the discussions. Ducey said that the state has reached out to the tribe throughout the process and, “They’re invited to be a part of this as well and we’re hopeful that they will be,” according to the report.
The announcement by the governor’s office comes within days of arguments that are to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell regarding the tribe’s legal right to operate Class III gaming at its Glendale casino. If the tribe is successful, the state will get nothing in return.