A federal judge has ordered the Arizona Department Of Gaming to turn over internal documents after earlier ruling that a state official had worked with a rival tribe in an effort to prevent the Tohono O’Odham Nation from opening a full-scale casino just west of Phoenix.
According to a report from the Arizona Capitol Times newspaper, Judge David Campbell from the United States District Court For The District Of Arizona ruled that Daniel Bergin, Director for the Arizona Depart Of Gaming, had collaborated via his attorney with a lawyer for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which operates the Casino Arizona facility on its Gila River Indian Community reservation near Scottsdale.
Campbell found that, although not officially part of the long-running action against the Tohono O’Odham Nation as it seeks to bring Class III gaming to its Desert Diamond West Valley Casino And Resort, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community does have an economic interest in preventing the Arizona venue from offering slots alongside games such as poker and blackjack.
“Gila River has a strong commercial incentive to stop the West Valley Casino,” wrote Campbell. “Director Bergin’s interest is not commercial.”
The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino And Resort is the closest casino to Casino Arizona at only 29 miles and opened in December despite failing to gain Class III certification or a liquor license from the Arizona Department Of Gaming. It has since been running Class II games, which are essentially linked instant-bingo games the state cannot preclude.
“The court also finds troubling the notion that a state regulatory body could join in a privilege-protected partnership with one of the entities it regulates to thwart expansion efforts of another entity it regulates, whether or not the regulatory body has a valid basis for opposing the expansion,” stated Campbell. “That appears to be what is happening here.”
Campbell declared that it was not up to him to decide if Bergin has crossed any legal lines as this was “beyond the scope of this order or the jurisdiction of the court” but he could thwart the state’s attempts to keep secret the communications between the Arizona Department Of Gaming and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community regarding the Tohono O’Odham Nation’s facility.
Edward Manuel, Chairman for the Tohono O’Odham Nation, proclaimed that his tribe “shares the same concerns raised by Judge Campbell” but remained “confident of a positive outcome in this case”.