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U.S. House Prolongs WV Casino Fight

Photo credit: Tohono O'odham Gaming Enterprise

By Jeff Grant for Daily News-Sun

A House panel has advanced legislation that could halt work on a new casino near the city, the West Valley’s first such project.

The Committee on Natural Resources Wednesday approved H.R. 308 by a voice vote, sending the measure to the full House. The resolution blocks the casino essentially by declaring it is a project in violation of a 2002 agreement between Arizona and its tribes on where Indian-operated casinos could be located.

The bill faces several more hurdles before reaching President Barack Obama’s desk, including action in the Senate, where an identical measure was introduced by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both R-Ariz.

The casino, on Nation land off 95th and Northern avenues just outside Glendale, has been under construction since late last year. Tohono O’odham and local officials recently marked placement of the last piece of structural steel for the framework of the first building, which will house gaming, restaurant and bar activities while work continues on the major portion of the casino/resort.

But East Valley tribes have claimed the project violates a previous agreement between Arizona and its Indian tribes limiting the amount and location of Indian gaming in the state. Tohono O’odham leaders counter East Valley tribes, which have spent millions of dollars lobbying against the project, are bent on protecting their gaming market share.

Ultimate passage of the bill would cost more than 1,300 construction jobs 500 permanent jobs in the project’s initial phase as well as 2,500 more positions once the entire casino resort opens. Completion of Phase 1 is scheduled for late this year.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., and a committee member, argued during Wednesday’s hearing H.R. 308 would not only kill jobs tied to the casino but create more widespread economic fallout.

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