Litigation | Openings and Closings
Tohono O'odham Nation seeks sanctions in battle over casino

Patrons waited in long lines on December 20, 2015, for the opening of the Desert Diamond Casino – West Valley in Glendale, Arizona. Photo from Facebook

The Tohono O'odham Nation is seeking sanctions against the state of Arizona after the state admitted destroying documents as part of long-running casino battle.

The records were destroyed because they detailed the state's interactions with tribes that oppose the Tohono O'odham Nation's new casino, according to an August 23 deposition.

"It was the tribes that seemed to be the most interested in -- in keeping things secret," assistant attorney general Roger Banan of the Arizona attorney general's office said in the deposition.

The Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community have been unsuccessful in their efforts to block the new Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort, which opened last December. They are not part of a lawsuit during which the deposition was taken.

But their anti-casino efforts have been closely tied to the state's. They entered into a "common interest agreement" with the attorney general's office but Banan, during the deposition, admitted he didn't even read the document before he signed it, The Glendale Star noted.

Arizona Casino Wars: Tribes battle over new gaming facility in the Phoenix area

And when the judge handling the lawsuit forced the Tohono O'odham Nation to turn over internal documents to the state, the attorney general's office gave them to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The tribe's public relations firm then gave them to a reporter.

The close ties have been described as "troubling" by Judge David Campbell, who subsequently ordered the state to turn over an email that detailed how it has worked with the Gila River Indian Community on the anti-casino effort.

"The meetings between a regulator and representatives of tribes with regulated gaming operations to coordinate efforts to block a competitor from opening a competing facility raise serious questions of regulatory fairness that have troubled this court," the Tohono O'odham Nation wrote in motion for sanctions reads.

The motion for sanctions was filed on September 14. As of Thursday morning, a decision had not been issued by the judge.

Even though the Tohono O'odham Nation overcame significant legal, regulatory and political hurdles to open the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort, the state has punished the tribe by refusing to certify it for Class III games. The lawsuit seeks to force the state's hand on the issue.

Additionally, the state has refused to allow liquor to be sold at the facility.

Read More on the Story:
Tohono O’odham Nation seeks sanctions against state (The Glendale Star 9/22)

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