Appeals court rules for Arizona tribe

Appeals court rules for Arizona tribeA federal appeals court has said an Arizona tribe is within its rights to build and operate a casino in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned aside the arguments of state officials and two tribal communities who contend the Tohono O’odham Nation breached a 2002 compact with its casino,

It is not clear yet whether the ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by either the state or the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian and Gila River Indian Communities.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that federal law and the southern Arizona tribe’s gambling compact with the state allow the tribe to have a casino in a Phoenix suburb, despite arguments by state officials and two other tribes with casinos in the metro area.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling for the Tohono O’odham Nation in a lawsuit filed by the state, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian communities.

The state and two tribes argued in their lawsuit and appeal that the 2002 compact implicitly barred the Tohono O’odham from having a Phoenix-area casino, but the 9th Circuit ruling said the wording of the compact resulting from “years of tedious negotiations” didn’t include a prohibition.

The 9th Circuit also ruled that the federal law on Indian gambling casinos allowed the Tohono O’odham to build the casino on a site it acquired on unincorporated land adjacent to the city of Glendale because money for the land purchase came from the federal government in a land settlement.

The Gila River and Salt River communities called the ruling disappointing, adding they will explore their legal options and expressing hope Congress will act.

The Tohono O’odham, headquartered in Sells west of Tucson, welcomed the 9th Circuit ruling and called on opponents of the Glendale-area casino to drop their “misguided challenges” so that the casino and resort can be expanded and provide more jobs.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: .

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