On Friday, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) two of the largest tribes in Arizona, announced that they would no longer be a part of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA) due to the group’s lack of voice regarding the construction of the Desert Diamond Casino Resort by the Tohono O’Odham Nation in the West Valley in Glendale, Arizona.
In a statement, the president of the Salt Rive Pima-Maricopa, Delbert Ray, said, “In recent days, AIGA’s leadership has failed to speak out on what we consider the most important issue before Arizona’s tribes — the actions of the Tohono O’odham Nation to use deception and fraud to secretly obtain land, hide it in a shell corporation, and develop a new casino in Glendale, breaking the promises to other tribes, state officials and Arizona’s voters,” according to the Phoenix Business Journal.
Stephen Roe Lewis, the Governor of GRIC, said its tribal council unanimously voted to discontinue its relationship with the AIGA due to the Glendale casino. In a statement, Lewis said, “Because AIGA has stood mute on this issue — and because the organization can no longer speak with “one unified voice” — our community has reluctantly decided to resign from AIGA.”
In a statement from the AIGA, it said representation of its member’s interests will continue. The group said the following in a statement, “The Arizona Indian Gaming Association respects the right of each sovereign government to act in the interest of their community,” and that “While our individual member tribes may have taken different positions on the West Valley resort, we as the Association continue to remain neutral on this issue.”
Controversy has surrounded the Tohono O’odham’s new casino located near 91st and Northern avenues ever since plans for its development were announced. The tribe’s decision to open the casino resulted in court battles that have been ongoing for several years. On March 29, the ruling handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit marked the 19 consecutive decision in favor of the tribe. Included in that total are administrative rulings by federal agencies and lower courts.
However, that didn’t stop the other Phoenix-area tribes, most notably the Salt River Pima-Maricopa and the GRIC, from continuing their objections to the move. It has been the contention of those tribes that when the Tohono O’odham announced their plans for the casino they were in breach of the original gaming compact which stated that no new casinos would be built in the Phoenix area. The court, however, found that the language of the compact was “unambiguous” and does not disallow gaming at the site.
Statement from Tohono O’odham Nation:
TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION
OFFICE OF THE CHAIRMAN AND VICE CHAIRMAN
EDWARD D. MANUEL, CHAIRMAN VERLON M. JOSE,
For 22 years, the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA) has brought together Arizona gaming tribes to advocate for our rights to economic development. The organization has been a unifying force in advancing a successful, regulated gaming industry. Today the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community chose to withdraw from AIGA, which they have the right to do as sovereign tribal governments. Their actions today are inconsistent with the mission of AIGA, which is to promote tribal gaming and to unify Arizona tribes through that effort. The Tohono O’odham Nation will continue to support AIGA’s mission and efforts.