Arizona Tribe Can Move Forward with Glendale Casino Expansion Following US Appeals Court Decision

Posted on: March 31, 2016, 10:02h. 

Last updated on: March 31, 2016, 10:04h.

Arizona tribe Desert Diamond West Valley
The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino opened to less-than-stellar reviews last December, but that should change after the Arizona tribe managing the Glendale facility won its lawsuit against the state to offer Class III games. (Image:

An Arizona tribe received the blessing of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals this week to expand its Glendale casino to include Class III gaming and incorporate slot machines and table games. In a lawsuit between the Tohono O’odham Nation vs. the State of Arizona, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and Gila River Indian Community, the court ruled on Tuesday that the Tohono tribe has every right to operate its Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort in Glendale, Arizona.

State lawmakers and the two opposing tribes argued that Tohono doesn’t have the legal right to operate a casino on land that wasn’t under their ownership when the Indian community reached its gaming compact with Arizona in 2002.

In a unanimous decision, the 9th Circuit Court rejected the state’s arguments and ruled, “The Tohono O’odham Nation’s plan to build a casino and conduct Class III gaming on a certain parcel of land did not violate a gaming compact between the Nation and the State of Arizona. The Compact expressly authorizes Class III gaming (table card games and slot machines) on the ‘Indian Lands’ of the Nation.”

Decision Good for West Valley

Located less than 20 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino opened last December under much scrutiny.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian and Gila River Indian communities opposed the resort due to their own self-interests, as the two tribes operate casinos in the Phoenix areas of Chandler and Scottsdale.

Following numerous court decisions, the Tohono Nation was allowed to move forward with its Glendale resort.

To date, the West Valley venue has only been allowed to offer Class II games. The classification is defined by the Arizona Department of Gaming as being “limited to games or gambling devices based on the game of bingo, and card games in which players play only against each other, and the house cannot win.”

The lack of slots and other popular commercial casino games has led to the West Valley Casino being panned by visitors. Bringing Class III variants to the casino floor should rejuvenate interest in the facility, and, in turn, generate more substantial revenues.

Fight Not Over

Among the opponents to the Tohono Glendale casino is Governor Doug Ducey (R). “We’ve reviewed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision and we encourage the attorney general’s office to explore all options,” Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said.

The Republican governor is against any expansion of gambling and wants to protect the cap on gaming facilities in the Valley that was reached between Native American tribes and Arizona voters in 2002.

Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel says his sovereign community is upholding the agreement it struck with voters 14 years ago. “We call on our opponents to drop all outstanding, misguided challenges so that we can work together in partnership to create positive economic development for the Tohono O’odham Nation, the West Valley, and all of Arizona,” Manuel said in a statement.

It’s now an uphill battle for the state and opposition to the West Valley Casino, as they’re going against one of the largest federally recognized Indian tribes in the US. The Tohono people have a census of approximately 30,000 members with some 2.8 million acres of land under their ownership.