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Senate bill introduced to stop Tohono O'odham Nation casino bid

Filed Under: Casino Stalker | Legislation
More on: 113th. h.r.1410, arizona, bia, igra, jeff flake, john mccain, land claims, land-into-trust, off-reservation, s.2670, scia, section 20, senate, seneca, tohono oodham, wyandotte

Artist's rendering of the proposed West Valley Resort. Image from Tohono O'odham Nation

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) introduced a bill to prevent the Tohono O'odham Nation from using its land for a casino.

S.2670 was introduced on Monday. It follows H.R.1410, the Keep the Promise Act, which bars all forms of Class II or Class III gaming on newly acquired trust land in the Phoenix area.

The bill doesn't mention any tribes by name. But it singles out the Tohono O'odham Nation's plan to build the $500 million West Valley Resort near Phoenix because the Bureau of Indian Affairs just approved the tribe's land-into-trust application.

Flake previously stated his opposition to the casino. McCain expressed concerns about it at Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing last week but indicated that the tribe was proceeding lawfully so it's not clear what may have changed for him in the last few days.

“The proposed West Valley Resort in Glendale, Arizona, has generated tremendous controversy and confusion in Arizona. We share the objections of many fellow Arizonans when we see attempts to bring Indian gaming to metropolitan areas that are on lands not connected to an extant reservation," McCain and Flake said in a statement. "As one of the authors (Senator McCain) of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Replacement Lands Act, Congress did not envision Indian gaming on the kinds of lands involved in the West Valley issue.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, generally, bars gaming on land acquired after 1988. But Section 20 of the law creates an exception for land acquired in connection with a land claim settlement.

The Tohono O'odham Nation appears to qualify due to the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act of 1986. The law allows the tribe to have up to 10,000 acres placed in trust to replace lands that were flooded by the federal government.

Since IGRA came after the law, Congress knew the exception could have been raised by the tribe at some point and could have addressed it at the time. Doing so now would break a promise, Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said at the hearing.

In the last 26 years, only one tribe has successfully opened an off-reservation casino in connection with the land claim exception in Section 20 of IGRA. The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma had to spend years in court to defend its right to engage in gaming on newly acquired trust land in Kansas.

The Seneca Nation of New York has opened two casinos in connection with a land claim settlement. However, in that case, the Bush administration determined that Section 20 didn't come into play because the Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990 requires that the tribe's lands be placed in restricted fee, rather than trust, status.

Last week's hearing lasted about 2 hours and 5 minutes. Audio can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud, with comments from McCain at about 15.52 into "Panel 1 Q&A."

Get the Story:
McCain, Flake introduce bill to stop Glendale casino (The Arizona Republic 7/29)
Hunt Construction, Penta picked by Tohono O’odham Nation to build $500M Glendale casino (The Phoenix Business Journal 7/28)
Indian Gaming Reform: What Is Congress Plotting, and How Will SCIA Chair Jon Tester Respond? (Indian Country Today 7/28)
GAO Report on Indian Gaming Coming in 2015 (Indian Country Today 7/28)
Mayor testifies before Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (The Peoria Times 7/25)

An Opinion:
Local Mayors and Officials: Casino will be a win for West Valley and Arizona (The Arizona Capitol Times 7/28)

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "Indian Gaming: The Next 25 Years" (July 23, 2014)

Related Stories:
Mayor gives conflicting view on Tohono O'odham Nation casino (7/25)

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