Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Joins the Fight


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Jan 13, 2011
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Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Joins the Fight

After more than two years on the sidelines, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community came out Wednesday in opposition to a sister tribe's proposed casino in the West Valley.

The Tohono O'odham Nation wants to build a casino and resort at 95th and Northern avenues, near Glendale's sports district.

Glendale, the Gila River Indian Community and others are challenging federal approval to put the Tohono O'odham's land into the reservation system, a precursor to gaming. A federal judge's ruling is expected soon.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa becomes the eighth Arizona tribe to officially oppose the casino. The tribe sent a four-page letter spelling out reasons for its opposition to Ned Norris Jr., chairman of the Tohono O'odham.

"It was clear to us that we needed to speak out now," Salt River Pima-Maricopa Chairwoman Diane Enos said. "We are convinced the future of Indian gaming on tribal land is at stake."

Enos said the tribe reached this conclusion after monitoring the issue since the beginning and seeing a growing out-of-state interest to get involved in gaming in Arizona, which is facing a serious budget crisis.

Enos said that if the casino was allowed to open, it would break the gaming compact between the 17 tribes and the state, which could lead to unlimited gaming statewide and affect existing Indian casinos.

The new casino would decrease Salt River's casino business in Scottsdale by at least 16 percent, according to the letter.

Enos said her tribe has not ruled out legal challenges to the casino.

"We are looking at all avenues right now," she said.

Enos said she doesn't know how much influence the tribe's position will have on the Tohono O'odham Nation, which has continued to move on its plans despite opposition from lawmakers such as Gov. Jan Brewer, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl.

"I hope they receive the letter in the spirit it was given, one of continuing respect and calling attention to the fact that we now view it as a serious threat to everybody," she said.

The Tohono O'odham, who operate casinos in southern Arizona, purchased the West Valley land under terms compensating them for loss of acreage to a federal dam project in the 1980s.

They say the casino would be an economic boon to the region and that they are willing to negotiate any issues with Glendale