Pascua Yaqui Tribe Wants to Turn Old Arizona Movie Theater Into Tucson Casino

Posted on: July 8, 2019, 09:04h. 

Last updated on: July 8, 2019, 01:17h.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is working with officials in Tucson, Ariz., to potentially open a casino on unused land the tribe currently owns.

The Casino del Sol in Tucson, Ariz is one of two casinos owned by the Pascua Yaqui in the city. The tribe is looking to add another casino there. (Image: Arizona Daily Star)

Pascua Yaqui leaders are attempting to move 14.38 acres of tribal land into a trust so that the land falls under their control and jurisdiction. That move could pave the way for a gaming property, but it would also require approval at the federal level.

The tribe anticipates 1.7 acres would continue to be used primarily for cultural and ceremonial purposes, with the remaining 12.68 acres for ‘economic or community development purposes,’” reports The Arizona Daily Star, citing local records.

Home to nearly 536,000 residents, Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city behind Phoenix and one of the 35 largest US metropolitan areas. The city is currently home to four casinos.

That Makes Three

If efforts are successful, it would be Pascua Yaqui’s third Tucson gaming venue.

The tribe also operates the Casino del Sol Resort Spa and Conference Center and Casino of the Sun. Casino del Sol has over 1,300 slot machines and table games with limits ranging from $5 to $1,200. Casino of the Sun has 40,000 square feet of gaming and 300 gaming machines.

The land Pascua Yaqui is hoping to add another gaming property on is close to Interstate 10 (I-10), which could be a prime location given that I-10 is one of the most heavily traveled highways in the US. I-10 spans the entire state of Arizona, reaching west into the heart of Los Angeles.

The property, acquired by the tribe in 2011 for $4.7 million, was previously a traditional movie theater. Prior to that, it was a drive-in theater.

If Pascua Yaqui gains permission to move the land into a trust and decides to move forward with the casino effort, the tribe will give the city of Tucson 90 days notice before proceeding with a formal gaming resolution, according to the Daily Star.

Barter Agreement

Assuming Pascua Yaqui is successful in its effort to open a third casino on the old cinema grounds, the tribe would enter into an arrangement with Tucson where it would be taxed on specific areas of consumption within the property.

For example, the tribe would pay a 2.6 percent levy on retail sales from the venue, including alcohol; 2 percent on food sales, 2 percent plus $4 per day on guest rooms, and 2 percent on entertainment, including concerts, and shows.

In turn, the city of Tucson would continue providing essential services, including law enforcement, fire, and trash hauling.

As part of the deal, the Tucson Police Department would also become eligible to make arrests on tribal land.

More than two dozen casinos operate in Arizona, all of which are tribal gaming venues. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2018, the state had gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $1.94 billion. The state’s tribes contributed $94.3 million to the Arizona Benefits Fund, according to the state’s Department of Gaming.