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House committee OKs bill to block O'odham casino in Glendale

A U.S. House committee gave overwhelming approval Wednesday to a bill that would block development of a Tohono O’odham casino on land the tribe bought inside Glendale.

The bill would reverse years of failed legal challenges to the project, which opponents say violates a 2002 agreement among tribes not to build new casinos in the metropolitan Phoenix area.

The “Keep the Promise Act of 2013″ would prohibit new gaming in the metro area, specifically on the Glendale land, until 2027.

The bill‘s backers called its passage “critical,” noting a judge’s approval this summer that construction on the Glendale could proceed.

“I simply believe gaming should be prohibited on lands in Glendale,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, a co-sponsor of the bill and a member of the House Natural Resources Committee that voted 35-5 for the bill. It now moves to the full House for consideration.

But casino supporters said both the courts and the public think there should be gaming in Glendale.

“The tired claims used to validate votes for this bill have been reviewed and rejected multiple times by the courts and federal agencies,” Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris said in a statement Wednesday.

“There is overwhelming public support for this project and the nation will continue to fight to bring thousands of new jobs and positive economic development to Arizona,” his statement said.

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The tribe got the Glendale land under the Gila River Bend Indian Reservations Replacement Act, which let the Tohono O’odham replace almost 10,000 acres of reservation lands that were flooded by the construction of a dam.

The tribe bought a parcel of Maricopa County land completely surrounded by Glendale – a “county island” – then successfully petitioned the federal government to have it declared reservation land, clearing the way for a casino.

Critics said that violated an agreement tribes had made to limit gaming in the metro area, in an effort to win voter approval of Proposition 202 that let the state enter into gaming compacts with individual tribes. That proposition passed in 2002.

“When you have a party, and they deal in bad faith, they have to be held accountable,” said Gosar, who said the Tohono O’odham broke the 2002 agreement.

The government has a right to “intercede in this transaction” because not doing so “would send the whole (gaming) compact into tailspin,” Gosar said at the committee meeting.

But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said that by “stepping in unilaterally” with the bill, the government would “put all Indian gaming compacts at risk.”

“Eleven administration hearings and judicial decisions have ruled” for the right of the Tohono O’odham to build the casino, he said.

“This law would undo what the courts have said,” Grijalva said.

Other tribes countered that it was the Tohono O’odham plan that put future gaming compacts at risk, not Wednesday’s vote.

“This bill protects the credibility of Arizona tribes who will have to negotiate and obtain voter approval for the future of tribal gaming in just a decade,” said Gila River Indian Community Gov. Gregory Mendoza in a statement. It said the action “prevents tribes from voiding their commitments and promises made to limit gaming in the metropolitan areas.”

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Grijalva tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to exempt gaming compacts currently in effect. That failed on a voice vote.

One commitee member who agreed with Grijalva called the bill “a very bad precedent.”

Besides endangering “about 6,000 construction jobs” that the casino would bring, Rep. Tom Tom McClintock, R-Calif., pointed to the land replacement agreement under the 1986 Gila River Bend Indian Reservations Replacement Act.

“This bill would retroactively reverse that settlement,” he said.

In addition to Gosar, sponsors on the bill include Arizona Reps. Trent Franks, R-Glendale; Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff; David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills; and Matt Salmon, R-Mesa.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 14 »

Jul 29, 2013, 8:17 am
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Dear Bret,
It is ALL about U.S. Constitution Standards! There is nothing “different” about federal/state racial de jure common law that makes distinguishable a U.S./Arizona citizen to have their health, welfare, safety and benefit enlarged because of their “Indian ancestry/race” while every other non-Indian citizen of the U.S./Arizona is denied the same ‘enlarged’ health, welfare, safety, and benefits. Bret, you have staked out your position and you are welcome to do so…but, you have not presented to the TUCSON SENTINEL readership the following 3-proclamations ratified by the U.S. electorate to amend our U.S. Constitution I have asked for several times to prove your staked out position: 1.  Distinguishable citizen by “Indian ancestry/race and 2.  Amending our U.S. Constitution’s treaty clause whereby the National Government makes treaties or holds to treaties with its own constituency and 3. Provides for ‘sovereign “Indian nations comprised of U.S./Arizona citizen since 1924” in accordance with our U.S. Constitution. Bret, absent your presentation of these 3-proclamations, you have nothing but your opinion.  And, your opinion remains jealously guarded by our U.S. Constitution Standards.Cheers, Paul R. Jones

Jul 29, 2013, 7:08 am
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Who says it is about race? Technically, it could be. However, this is different. Any regular reader of my posts would tell you that I hate anyone being given any perk based on skin color, and in no case is that more true then when it comes to Raul Grijalva being handed a blatantly rigged district to he can continue his reign of terror in the halls of Congress.

However, this is different. It isn’t so much about color of skin than it is sovereignty of the land.

The U.S. Government has broken so many treaties with the Native peoples over the last two centuries that I doubt any historian could ever come up with an accurate count of how many. Since the government herded these tribes on to these reservations (in many cases being located to regions that particular nation had never been before), the least the government can do is leave them alone and let them do what they want, so long as they’re not hurting anyone else. If the nation was proposing a toxic waste storage facility then I would also be opposed. But, this casino isn’t going to hurt anyone.

I am a strong proponent of Native American sovereignty.

This casino would give the state a 5% cut of the take, another move I’m opposed to. But, there’s a few more million the idiot state government can mismanage. Doesn’t that make you happy?

Jul 29, 2013, 4:10 am
-0 +0

Dear Mr. Linden,
You have reduces this conversation to a “Strawman” attack against me personally.  Fallacious logic is the last bastion of those who cannot provide facts.  Your “Anti-pc” is showing through.  Unimpeachable U.S. Constitution Standards reasons where placed squarely before you….facts you did not dispute; it is a U.S. Constitution Standards guarantee assured by “Citizenship” there are no more “Indiana” only U.S./Arizona citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” entitled to no authority to build a casino in the sovereign State of Arizona because of their race!  Race-based du jure legislation like the Tohono O’odham land deal is not supported by our U.S. Constitution…that simple fact is your “GOOD REASON” whether you agree or not!
Cheers, Paul R. Jones

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Click image to enlarge

An architectural rendering of the proposed Tohono O’odham casino in Glendale.