The Tohono O’odham Nation will further its pursuit of Class III gaming at its Glendale casino after U.S. District Judge David Campbell on Monday ordered a trial to determine whether or not to grant a casino-style gaming permit for the venue, according to the Associated Press.
While the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort has been open for a year now, the tribe has not been able to offer its customers the more lucrative Class III games because of the refusal by Arizona Director of Department of Gaming Daniel Bergin to certify the venue for a full-scale gaming license. The category includes random number generated slots, blackjack, craps, roulette and other Las Vegas-style wagering games.
The state claims the Tohono O’odham Nation deceived voters in 2002 when it led voters to believe by signing Proposition 202 allowing tribes to establish casinos and operate them there would be no new gaming casinos established in the Phoenix metro area. In 2009, the tribe purchased 135 acres of land near the University of Phoenix and announced its plan to build a casino, offsetting the 2002 law and leading to years of legal challenges. According to Bergan, it was only after Proposition 202 was signed that the Tohono O’odham Nation made its intentions known.
The tribe asserts that federal law allows the casino and that nowhere in the 2002 compact does it state that gaming expansion outside of its reservation in Southern Arizona is prohibited. Responding to the state’s claims, the tribe filed a petition with the courts stating that in refusing to grant a Class III gaming license, Bergin is violating the compact and state law. However, on Monday, Judge Campbell determined that there were several relevant issues that needed to be addressed at trial and denied the tribe’s motion for summary judgment.
Among the issue is the argument by the tribe that the Class III compact was already ratified by the state and it cannot be rescinded with respect to the West Valley casino. Also included is the issue of the notes that were destroyed by Arizona Assistant State Attorney General Roger Banan after meeting with the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, both of which oppose the new casino. Judge Campbell indicates in the order (pdf) issued on Monday that Banan will have to testify as to his “state of mind” when he made the decision to destroy the notes.
According to the order, on January 18, 2017, the Court will hold a telephone conference with the state and the tribe to address issues related to the trial, such as expected length, dates for the trial in the months of April through August of 2017, and other relevant issues. Judge Campbell also states that time limits for each side in the trial will be set by the Court and that it anticipates the proceedings can be conducted within an 8-10-day time frame.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has since offered a new gaming compact that would give the tribe a Class III gaming license. The proposal was initially rejected by the tribe but later stated that it would reconsider if certain clarifications were made to the proposal, which was drafted absent any input from the Nation.