(Source: GlendaleStar): Darrel Jackson
Nearly a decade after purchasing land so they could build a casino resort on the border of Glendale, the Tohono O’odham Nation officially announced it will begin construction on the long-planned project by the end of the year.
A year-and-a-half after opening a Class II casino on the property at Northern and 91st avenues, the Nation announced the beginning of the Class III casino project with a press release June 30.
“This has been a long time coming, and we will continue to work with the community to ensure that construction proceeds smoothly,” Andy Asselin, CEO of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, said.
After attempting to stop the casino for nearly a decade, the state of Arizona and the Tohono O’odham Nation announced a settlement to the legal challenges in May.
In the agreement, the Nation will move forward with Class III gaming at its West Valley facility under an amended tribal-state gaming compact. The state will process the West Valley facility’s Class III gaming certification and liquor license in the normal course of the regulatory process. The state has also agreed that it will not oppose the Nation’s efforts to have its land immediately adjacent to the West Valley facility taken into trust.
In exchange, the Nation has agreed not to conduct Class II or Class III gaming anywhere else in a designated geographical area that includes metropolitan Phoenix during the term of the agreement. Additionally, although the Nation will retain its ability to acquire new reservation land under the terms of Public Law 99-503, known as the “Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act,” the Nation also has agreed not to request that the Secretary of the Interior take any other land in that area into trust for the purpose of gaming during the agreement term. These restrictions will terminate if federal or state legislation is enacted that bars the Nation from conducting Class II or Class III gaming on the West Valley land, or if another tribe conducts Class III gaming on new trust lands in the designated geographical area.
Now, the Nation is ready to move forward with a $400 million expansion of the Desert Diamond Casino, with construction expected to begin by the end of the year and take upwards of 20 months to complete the first phase. The current casino will remain open during construction.
The new resort will be constructed to the north of the current casino, with the current building planned to be a possible warehouse once the first phase of the Class III facility is completed.
“With this announcement, we are moving forward with our promise to create new jobs and positive economic opportunity for members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the West Valley and the citizens of Arizona,” said Edward Manuel, Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation. “This beautiful new facility will be a positive economic engine for decades to come.”