Glendale appealing Indian casino decision to Arizona Supreme Court

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 9:25 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 11 at 9:26 AM

Map: 95th and Northern avenues

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The fight between the city of Glendale and the Tohono O'odham Nation over a proposed casino rages on now that the city council has voted to appeal the state’s latest ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Glendale City Council made the decision to appeal at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The legal wrangling has been going on for more than two years. At the heart of the controversy is the parcel of land on which the Tohono O'odham Nation plans to build its Las Vegas-style resort casino.

The land is located near 95th and Northern avenues, which is technically in Glendale. Back in March, a federal judge issued a ruling that’s in line with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to designate the property in question as reservation land. While the land is not yet officially in the reservation system, that ruling cleared the way for the Tohono O'odham Nation to move forward.

While the city argues that the land can’t be brought into trust by the Tohono O'odham Nation, a 1982 federal says the tribe can replace Southern Arizona lands that it lost. In order to do that, however, the land in question must be unincorporated. That might not be the case with the proposed casino site, which is more than 100 miles from the Tohono O'odham Nation’s reservation,. The city of Glendale claims it annexed that disputed land more than 10 years ago.

Glendale has lost most of it battles to keep the Tohono O'odham Nation from developing the complex, which, according to submitted plans, will feature a resort, shops and restaurants in addition to the casino.

City officials have been outspoken in their opposition of the proposed casino project. Some people, however, have questioned the amount of money the city has spent on appeals to keep the development from moving forward.

The Gila River Indian Community also opposes the Tohono O'odham Nation’s plan, claiming the project not only violates a pact to not build any news casinos, but it also would take business from other Valley casinos.

In March, the tribe says it will work with the surrounding communities as it proceeds, but there’s no word yet on when construction will begin or when the casino could be open for business.

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