In what appears to be the never-ending saga of the West Valley casino, otherwise known as Desert Diamond Casino-West Valley, once again, the courts are being called upon to make a decision on the venture by the Tohono O’odham Nation, a venture, we might add, that was made public in 2009.
Surely, one opines, this must end before the year 2025. One should add the observation that 2025 is only nine years away. But, by that time, for many of us, we will be retired or dead, and we want answers now.
Both sides of this dispute over whether the Nation should be able to open a Class III casino on its reservation land at 95th and Northern avenues have been inside one courtroom or another over the past six years.
The City of Glendale dropped its objection to the casino Aug. 7, 2014, after five years of fighting its construction. An agreement was signed by both parties Aug. 12 at a city council meeting.
There was a price to pay by the Nation. It paid the City of Glendale a one-time payment of $500,000 after the agreement was signed. After that, the Nation agreed to pay the city $1.4 million a year, beginning six months after gaming began on the site. Gaming began Dec. 20, 2015. Last year, the agreement was amended to refer to the type of gaming as Class II instead of Class III. Terms remain the same.
Payments to Glendale are scheduled to increase by 2 percent per year until 2026. After 2026, the payment will drop to $900,000, but increase by 2 percent per year for 10 years after that.
But the City of Glendale has been the least of the Nation’s worries. It is also facing a battle with Congress – the House with U.S. Reps. Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, and the Senate with U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.
The congressional delegation is siding with the state in its argument that the Nation committed fraud and deceived the public and lawmakers during the campaign to pass Proposition 202, Arizona’s Indian Gaming Compact.
Now, the Nation is in another courtroom, facing the state in what it hopes will be its final battle with the Gov. Doug Ducey administration. The Nation brought the lawsuit to Judge David Campbell’s federal district court to force the state gaming department to issue it a Class III casino license for its West Valley property. It would then be able to conduct table games, such as blackjack and poker.
In the meantime, Dec. 20, the Nation opened its Class II casino, which is not governed by the state, nor the gaming compact. Instead, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Agency, based in Washington, D.C., oversees Class II gaming operations. And, even the Class II casino is experiencing its own brand of courtroom-like drama.
The Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise applied for a No. 6 liquor license transfer July 6, 2015. It was scheduled for a liquor board hearing June 27. That’s not happening.
The Nation asked for a delay in its liquor board hearing. Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise requested more time to review additional documentation, and the state liquor department agreed to the delay. No date has been set for a new hearing.
When will this end? And, why all the drama? Why not allow the Nation to proceed with its plan to build a first-class resort on tribal land and operate a first-class casino operation in the West Valley?
Since when is anything and everything west of I-17 part of metropolitan Phoenix?
The answer is whenever it is convenient for elected officials to appeal to the interests of the East Valley, that’s when.