The House Natural Resources Committee approved H.R. 308 by a voice vote on Wednesday. Without naming any tribes specifically, if passed by both houses and signed by the president, or slipped into another bill as an earmark – the bill would stop the Tohono O’odham Nation from opening its $450 million Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Resort in Glendale. The tribe purchased the land and has been working on a casino development based on the 1986 law that allows the tribe to replace lands that have been lost in Southern Arizona.
The bill, dubbed the “Keep the Promise Act of 2015,” sponsored by Senator John McCain, is backed by the Gila River Indian Community and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. These two tribes already operate Phoenix area casinos and believe the O’odham project would just create competition. The vote is a victory for those who say they are opposed to destroying the balance between tribes and gaming in the state. Many opponents of the casino have tried to pass federal bills to restrict the casino in the past, but these bills failed.
The tribe has already started construction and the bill would eliminate over 1,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent casino jobs that are slated for the first phase of the project. The Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman stated that the bill would only benefit the wealthy that wish to protect their market shares and this would be at the expense of the state of Arizona.
The passing of the bill would undo perceived agreements under the Proposition 202 debate of 2002 and opponents of the casino have already spent $14 million in lobbying costs to try to get a law passed to negate victories the tribe has won in the courts since the conflict began over five years ago.