Desert Diamond Casino – West Valley adjacent to the Phoenix, Arizona suburb of Glendale is one step closer to offering visitors a full scale casino experience thanks to a ruling today from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that determined the Tohono O’odham Nation could offer casino gaming at their Glendale casino. The casino opened on December 20, 2015 offering Class II or ‘bingo’ slots. Today’s ruling was the 19th decision in a row in favor of the tribe including administrative rulings by federal agencies and lower courts.
All issues before it were ruled in the Nation’s favor by the Ninth Circuit. The appellate judges agreed with earlier findings of U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell, whom opponents have repeatedly tried to have removed from the cases, that the tribe’s property was acquired legally through the settlement of a land claim. They also found that the language of a voter-approved tribal/state gambling compact was “unambiguous” and does not disallow gaming at the site. The Nation received lands in exchange for those lost to flooding and ruination from the Painted Rock Dam west of Gila Bend which affected some 10,000 acres of the tribe’s reservation.
The Court also ruled that opponents, including the Arizona Department of Gaming director Daniel Bergin’s allegations of misrepresentation and fraud, “do not constitute claims for a violation of the Compact,” the justices wrote.
Based on those finding the Court ruled that the tribe’s facility is in compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and that the Compact specifically allows Class III, Las Vegas style gambling in the Phoenix Metro area including the West Valley Region.
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward D. Manuel said in a statement today that, “The Court’s unanimous ruling leaves no doubt that the Nation has the right to move forward with Class III gaming. We call on our opponents to drop all outstanding, misguided challenges so that we can work together in partnership to create positive economic development for the Tohono O’odham Nation, the West Valley, and all of Arizona.”
Andy Asselin, CEO of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, said “This is a great day for the gaming operation and the nearly 600 families of the employees at our West Valley facility. Once we move forward with Class III gaming, we will be able to create 3,000 more jobs here in the community.” He went on to say: “We are proud of the enduring relationships we have built in the West Valley. Just this weekend, we are supporting two major events in the community, the air show at Luke Air Force Base and the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at the Phoenix International Raceway.”
The tribe has been embroiled in lawsuits and attempts to stop the project from local and regional tribes with competing interests, successive governors of Arizona and most recently the Arizona Department of Gaming. The U.S. House and Senate have also drafted and passed various bills through committees that would, while not expressly naming the tribe, make it impossible for them to open or operate a casino in the area.