Glendale close to hitting casino jackpot

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After five years of debate and dissention, the Glendale City Council took a step toward approving a new resort casino Wednesday, rolling out a proposed agreement between the city and the Tohono O'odham Nation.

The city council will vote Tuesday on whether to approve the 17-page agreement with the Nation.

If approved, the Nation will pay the city of Glendale a total of $24 million over the course of the next 20 years: $1.4 million a year through the year 2026, and $900,000 a year after that.

The Nation also agrees to cover its own development and infrastructure costs and will pay for use of the City of Glendale's water source.

Glendale city councilman Ian Hugh said, if the casino is built, it will be a jobs jackpot: "There’s going to be jobs coming to Glendale and to the West Valley. 2,000 jobs, 3,000 jobs."

Hugh said he expects the casino to, "anchor our entertainment and sports district that Glendale’s famous for."

One councilmember who was initially opposed to the idea of the casino now says he believes the project is a win-win for the city and the Nation.

"I wasn’t for it because it’s a sovereign nation, we weren’t going to be getting any money out of it," Gary Sherwood said.

The Tohono O'odham Nation is dropping its sovereignty and agreed to most of the same stipulations as many other private businesses that build in Glendale -- everything Sherwood was looking for in a partnership.

"It's been a five-year, five-and-a-half-year saga," Sherwood said. "It's nice to know this is almost over with."

Even if the council does approve the agreement, the development could still face opposition in the form of pending lawsuits and legislation introduced by Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake that would prohibit the gaming.

Sherwood said he believes the senators are falling victim to heavy lobbying.

"The only reason the senators are against it, they’re getting a lot of pressure, a lot of money has been spent by the other side of this," Sherwood said.

The Tohono O'odham Nation appears ready to roll the dice and roll up its sleeves.

"The Nation will continue to pursue a positive working relationship with the City of Glendale as we prepare to move forward with creating thousands of jobs and positive economic development in the West Valley."

As Hugh points out, the Nation could have decided to begin construction without an agreement with Glendale.

"It’s an Indian reservation, it’s a federal reservation, they don’t have to pay us anything," Hugh said. "They’re volunteering to do all this. I think it shows an act of faith that they want to be an active part of the community."



Glendale City Council to vote soon on casino plan

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Glendale City Council will consider an agreement next week with the Tohono O'odham Nation over its plan to build a casino resort near the city's sports and entertainment district.

City officials posted a draft agreement of the deal Wednesday. The council is scheduled to vote on the project Tuesday night.

The southern Arizona tribe bought the casino site in 2003 to replace land flooded by the Painted Rock Dam about 30 years ago.

The Salt River and Gila River tribes oppose the casino plan. They argue that a 2002 tribal gaming compact stipulated no other casinos would be developed in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The Tohono O'odham obtained reservation status for the casino site last month through a U.S. Department of Interior decision allowing trust status for the land.

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