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Proposed Glendale Indian Casino clears hurdle

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June 4, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - The Tohono O'odham Nation has cleared a major hurdle toward establishing a reservation and a mega-casino complex on 134 acres near Northern and 95th avenues in Glendale.

The Western Regional Office of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has dismissed Glendale's opposition to the plan and will send a recommendation to Washington, D.C., for officials to review and consider whether a casino meets the requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said he is elated and confident the tribe's plan meets federal gaming law.

The federal law allows tribes to expand their reservations and casinos when a land settlement is involved. In 1986 Congress allowed the tribe to acquire 9,880 acres as replacement for reservation land damaged by a federally built dam in the 1970s. Congress stipulated that the tribe must purchase the land in unincorporated areas of Pima, Pinal or Maricopa counties. The land acquired by the Tohono O'odham was unincorporated but now surrounded by the city of Glendale.

Glendale officials argued the land does not meet the intended requirements because the land is an unincorporated county island surrounded by the city.
Maricopa County and neighboring Peoria disagree, and both have submitted letters saying the land was unincorporated.

Retired U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini, an original co-sponsor of the bill, also says Glendale's position was wrong. He wrote in an April 30 letter to the U.S. Department of Interior "For some now to interpret that this legislation included an additional requirement that replacement lands be isolated (and thus its economic value diminished) is incorrect."

Glendale's city attorney, Craig Tindall, is preparing a legal-position paper to oppose approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He said, "The federal government can't do what they're doing and have no consideration for local governments."

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