The lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for Arizona requests an injunction to prevent the Tohono O’odham from opening a casino in Glendale. Tohono O’odham leaders have repeatedly said they fully intend to immediately open a casino in Glendale if the land is placed into trust by the United States - without ever obtaining approval from Secretary of Interior Salazar or the State of Arizona.
AG Tom Horne provided this legal background: "Initially, the Gila River Indian Community sued the United States. In a separate lawsuit the City of Glendale also sued the United States. The Tohono O'odham Nation intervened in both lawsuits. The purpose of both lawsuits is to have the decision concerning the land in question (Glendale land) remanded to the Department of the Interior for proceedings that were omitted but necessary. This office intervened on behalf of the State of Arizona supporting the Gila River Indian Community. In this new action, both the Gila River Indian Community and the State of Arizona seek a judgement for breach of contract because of the initial agreement that tribal gaming would not occur within cities and neighborhoods."
Arizona Citizens voted to approve Proposition 202 in 2002 to allow Indian Casinos to operate on existing reservation lands and to keep casinos out of cities and neighborhoods. Now the Tohono O’odham Nation claims that a legal loop hole allows it to open a casino in Glendale in violation of its Compact and the promise made to the citizens of Arizona by the 17 tribe coalition that supported Proposition 202. GRIC Governor William Rhodes said, “Arizona tribes and Arizona voters made a promise to keep casinos out of neighborhoods and to make gaming work for the economic benefit of every tribe and our state. We can’t let one tribe break that promise at the expense of all other Arizona tribes and 6 million people of the state of Arizona.”
Even though the Department of Interior has never determined that gaming on the Glendale land would be legal, the Tohono O’odham Nation has made clear in its court filings that it has no intention of ever seeking an eligibility ruling. Their plan is to just open the casino and then see if anyone can shut the casino down. The Secretary of Interior apparently agrees with this approach which could trigger a crisis in Indian gaming in Arizona.
By contrast, Attorney General Horne and the Gila River Indian Community believe that any gaming conducted without a formal eligibility ruling violates the Compacts, which only allow casinos on IGRA approved lands. Except for very limited exceptions which do not apply here, IGRA does not allow a Casino on Indian land acquired after 1988.
“What Tohono O’odham has proposed not only violates federal and state law, it breaks the promise of Indian gaming relied on for years by tribes and Arizonans alike,” Rhodes said. “So far, the federal government has not been willing to uphold the law. The BIA has decided to avoid making a decision and to leave this to the courts to figure out. So, together with Attorney General Horne, we intend to make sure that happens.”