Steller: Against odds, state of Arizona keeps fighting O’odham casino — Arizona Daily Star

You are forgiven if you think you’ve heard this before:

The Tohono O’odham Nation has won another court ruling in its effort to establish a full-service casino outside of Glendale. Yet the state of Arizona continues to fight the nation in court.

This has been a pattern for the last several years: the state loses, but the people who claim to be representing the residents of Arizona continue using our taxpayer money to fight this losing battle. In the meantime, the Sells-based tribe has built the casino and customers are playing Class II games there — basically, electronic bingo-based games that are permitted by federal law.

In the latest awkward pairing of events, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled March 29 that the Tohono O’odham Nation may conduct Class III gaming at its West Valley site. This seemed to resolve the issue once and for all, but the tribe still needed a state permit and licensed employees.

Not two months later on May 27, in a separate lawsuit, state Gaming Director Daniel Bergin filed a motion to force the Tohono O’odham Nation to disclose previously withheld documents about the decision to build the casino. Bergin’s argument is that the O’odham committed fraud in entering into the 2003 Gaming Compact with the state of Arizona, and therefore the state can withhold its permission for the casino to conduct Class III gaming.

This was a compelling argument once — before court after court concluded that it doesn’t hold water. It seems true the nation played fast and loose with Arizona voters’ expectations in 2002: At the same time we approved a compact that we thought would cap the number of casinos in the Phoenix area, the nation was quietly hatching plans for an additional one.

But the March 29 ruling addressed this exact point and found the state wrong and the Tohono O’odham Nation right.

Read the full column at the Arizona Daily Star.