According to a Tuesday report from Indianz.com citing an official notice published in the Federal Register, the decision means that the tribe will now hold some 135 acres of land in Maricopa County after it secured an initial 54-acre plot some eight years ago.
Compensation for flooded lands:
This earlier reward was made in connection with 1986’s Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act, which was co-sponsored by late United States Senator, John McCain, as a way of compensating the tribe for its loss of a 10,000-acre reservation in the 1960s following the construction of a nearby reservoir.
Indianz.com reported that the Tohono O’odham Nation subsequently sought to increase its local landholdings in order to construct its Desert Diamond West Valley Casino near the northern Phoenix suburb of Glendale but found its efforts continually frustrated by a range of opponents that included neighboring casino-operating tribes.
New casino to open in 2019:
However, the tribe has now reportedly saw off almost a decade’s worth of costly lobbying campaigns in Washington, DC, alongside a range of state and federal litigation to be awarded the land and has plans to open its $400 million Desert Diamond West Valley Casino in a permanent structure by the end of next year.
Settlement parcel exempt from gaming prohibition:
Although 1988’s Indian Gaming Regulatory Act reportedly includes a stipulation that forbids newly-acquired tribal lands from being utilized for gaming, it additionally contains an exception for any parcels that have been awarded in connection with a settlement. In signing the land-into-trust decision in favor of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Tara Sweeney, the new Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary for the Department of the Interior, purportedly cited this release along with the fact that the parcel in question occupies a ‘non-incorporated’ area of Maricopa County.