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Glendale Indian casino plan moves forward

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July 23, 2010

Friday marked the day that federal officials gave approval for the annex of land owned by the Tohono O'odham. The land is located near Glendale and will go into the reservation. This is a giant step for the tribe in order for them to someday operate a casino there.

53.5 acres of land have been put in trust. This is a legal requirement. Still in question is the 135 acres that were purchased near the Arizona Cardinals stadium and if it can be put into trust. This land was bought by the tribe years ago. Currently the land is considered to be part of Glendale and therefore cannot be considered part of the reservation.

Tohono officials are confident that they can have plans redesigned to allow for more than a casino. It would be a $550 million facility with a shopping center and resort. The casino would be built on reservation land as required by law.

The major hurdle is related to the 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. There are special requirements for tribes to have casinos on land that were not part of the reservation before 1988. The Tohono tribe must prove that they qualify for an exception.

In 2002 voters approved gaming expansions that tribes can operate. This also increased the amount of slot machines they may have and have rights to casino style gaming. Voters were assured that if accepted. Gaming would be limited to tribal communities that already existed. Not take place in areas off the reservation.

However, an exception to the law allows for casinos to be operated on land acquired by "the settlement of a land claim". In 1986 the tribe was paid $30 million by congress in the purchase of 10,000 acres of tribal land in the San Lucy District. It was flooded by a dam. The money paid to the tribe was to purchase new land in Pinal, Maricopa, and Pima Counties. Under the law, the land was allowed to be considered part of the reservation as long as it was not in any city limits.

In 2003, a tribe own company called Rainer Resources Inc. purchased the property near the stadium. It was undisclosed until early last year who the owners were when the tribe attempted to make the land part of the reservation.

Currently, the Gila River casinos are the closest gaming facility to the West Valley.

Return to Arizona Casinos.

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