What is the Tohono O’odham Nation?
The Tohono O’odham Nation is one of the largest federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, with a membership of approximately 30,000 people. The Nation’s reservation lands are located in southern and central Arizona within the Nation’s aboriginal territory.
What land is the Nation proposing to add to its present configuration?
The Nation has acquired approximately 135 acres of land in western Maricopa County; it is adjacent to Northern Avenue and 95th Avenue. The Department of the Interior has approved the Nation’s application to take a portion of this land into trust.
What is the Nation proposing to develop on that land?
The Nation proposes to develop a mixed-use resort and entertainment facility which will include a hotel, convention center, and casino amenities.
What experience does the Nation have in operating gaming enterprises?
The Nation has a successful track record of developing and operating first-class casino and resort facilities in Arizona. They have been involved in gaming enterprises for more than 25 years and most recently completed the development of the Desert Diamond Casino-Hotel in the Tucson area.
What will be the scope and elements of the overall development?
Building on the dynamic sports and entertainment district in the area, this development is being designed to complement the surrounding facilities. The West Valley Resort will be comprised of a 400-room hotel with standard and suite options, a full-service spa, 100,000 square feet of convention and meeting space, a 225,000 square-foot gaming floor with slot machines, poker and other gaming tables, plus retail space, restaurants, and other amenities.
What will be the size and characteristics of the casino element, including the number of machines and game tables?
Casino amenities will adhere to the limitations and restrictions set forth in the Nation’s gaming compact with the State of Arizona. The casino component of the resort—at 225,000 square feet—will be the largest in the state, featuring more than 1,100 slot machines, 48 table games, and 20 poker tables. The casino will also feature a bar, a cafe, and dining options.
What are the impacts, economic and otherwise, of the contemplated development?
The construction of the resort will have a significant economic impact. It will directly and indirectly generate hundreds of millions of dollars in output and thousands of jobs. In the first stabilized year of operations, it is estimated that the resort will generate annual economic impacts of more than $300 million, more than 3,000 jobs, and more than $136 million in wages.
Where is the acquired land? Is it located in a municipality or is it in an unincorporated area of Maricopa County?
As is required by the Statute, the land acquired by the Nation is in unincorporated Maricopa County, adjacent to the cities of Glendale and Peoria, and located at the corner of 95th Avenue and Northern Avenue.
Under what authority is the Nation allowed to take this action?
The Nation’s right to place this land into trust is clearly provided for in P.L. 99-503 which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan. The legislation addressed the Nation’s loss of 9,880 acres in its San Lucy District that were rendered unusable by flooding from the construction of the Painted Rock Dam. P.L. 99-503 was passed to “facilitate replacement of reservation lands with lands suitable for sustained economic use.” The law authorizes the Nation to purchase unincorporated lands located in Pima, Pinal, or Maricopa counties as replacement reservation lands for economic and community development purposes.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed in 1988 and is the law that allows for Indian gaming. The law generally prohibits gaming on reservation lands acquired after 1988 but explicitly includes certain exceptions, including for lands taken into trust as part of the settlement of a land claim.
How will revenues from the casino operation be distributed?
With the passage of Proposition 202 in 2002, the Nation and Arizona’s gaming tribes have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars through revenue sharing to support Arizona’s state and local governments, education, health care, public safety, and other important needs.
Under the revenue sharing plan, tribes make contributions based on the level of net income, with those making higher net incomes paying a higher percentage. Under this plan, 88% of the Nation’s contributions goes to funding Arizona’s education, trauma and emergency services, wildlife conservation, and state tourism funds. The other 12% of the Nation’s revenue sharing funds are distributed by the Nation to local cities, towns, and counties for government services benefiting the general public.