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Arizona Tribe at Odds with U.S. House Over Casino

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Image Courtesy of Tohono O'odham Nation
If built, the Tohono O'odham's West Valley Resort, near Glendale, Ariz., will include a hotel, convention space and a casino.
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A bill written to block construction of a resort-casino near Glendale, Ariz., could face an uphill battle in the Senate. Passed by the House on June 19, the measure is the latest move by the project's opponents—including the city of Glendale, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) and regional tribes with competing gaming establishments—to halt the estimated $184-million project.

The resort-casino was to be built on a 54-acre site purchased in 2003 by the Tohono O'odham Nation as part of a 1986 settlement by Congress to replace tribal land flooded by a dam in the 1960s.

The bill's author, Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), accused the tribe of reservation-shopping and using front companies to purchase the land. He says his bill would "prevent an ominous precedent that could lead to an expansion of off-reservation casinos and dangerous changes to the complexion of tribal gaming in the other States."

The project has survived court challenges and legislative maneuvers and is currently before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a statement, Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said his tribe has followed the law, "which is why the courts and federal agencies have consistently ruled in the Nation's favor."

The resort's original $500-million design by Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group was scaled back last year in an attempt to appease opponents. Amenities will include a spa, a convention space and events center, restaurants and a three-acre atrium. Proponents claim the project will create thousands of construction and permanent jobs.

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