It has been 18 years and 42 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
In reviewing documents related to the casino I came across an issue about which I had previously not paid much attention. In the transcript of the December 7, 2015 oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of State of Arizona vs. Tohono O’odham Nation the judge asked both sides a series of questions. Here is the link: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/media/2015/12/07/13-16517 .
At issue is the ability of the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) to place all of its permitted casinos on unincorporated land (county islands) in Maricopa County. Pratik Shah, attorney for the Gila River Indian Community, said on page 4, “under their (TON) reading, they could simply move all four casinos to Phoenix because Phoenix is 50 miles outside of Tucson.”
On page 8 of the transcript Seth Waxman, attorney for the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) stated, “Mr. Shah is quite correct that in general what the compact says is, the nation may game on any of its Indian lands including lands covered by Section 2719.”
Further evidence of the TO’s very likely intent to locate all of its casinos in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area can be found in the March 16, 2012 deposition of Daniel Quigley, a TON attorney who has represented either the TON or its entity, the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, almost continuously since 1993. His deposition was taken with regard to one of the numerous lawsuits. In this case, it was the State of Arizona vs. Tohono O’odham Nation.
A small tutorial on lawsuits is in order. Attorneys for either side can file motions asking that something be included or excluded or for a continuance. Prior to the actual trial there is a discovery phase. Each side can request documents and take preliminary testimony from potential witnesses in the form of a deposition. The attorney representing the side that requested the deposition does the questioning.
Mr. Quigley negotiated the state gaming compact on behalf of the TO. Since 2003 he has been general counsel of their gaming enterprise entity. When he joined the law firm of Rushing Lopez & Lizardi, PLLC., the TON followed him and is currently a client of this firm. He is also the attorney for Rainer Resources, a wholly owned TO entity. It was Rainer Resources which bought the land in Glendale in 2002 and held it until the TO made their 2009 public announcement of their plans to develop a casino in Glendale.
Mr. Quigley grudgingly gave up information and often claimed attorney-client privilege. However, some of his answers were very telling. On page 19 he is asked if the TON owns other properties. Based upon the following line of questions it appears that the TON already does own additional properties. The 64 dollar questions are where? On county islands? How many? That is information the TON did not and will not give up.
- Q. “Other than what I’ve already asked you about, are there any other fee lands that the Nation has an interest in?”
- A. “Yes.”
- Q. “What are those?”
- A. “I am aware of the property that we’ve been referring to as the West Valley Resort property in this litigation.”
- Q. “Anything else?”
- A. “I’m sure there are, but I’m not familiar with them.”
- Q. “How can you be sure there are if you don’t know specifically what properties they are?”
- A. “My best guess is that the Nation owns additional real estate beyond those.”
- Q. “And what do you base that on?”
- A. “I believe in the past, I’ve seen records of fee ownership of land.”
- Q. “How many additional pieces of real estate, approximately, do you believe the Nation owns?”
- A. “I don’t know.”
- Q. “How many have you seen records of?”
- A. “I don’t know.”
- Q. “Can you give me an approximate number?”
- A. “A couple.”
Another line of questioning on page 65 deals with the Tohono O’odham never specifically mentioning the possibility of acquiring additional land in the Phoenix metro area to be put into trust for the purpose of gaming during the time that voter approval was sought for the state compact.
- Q. “Because everybody knew that casinos had to be located on the Indian lands of the tribe, and the tribe had specific Indian lands in the vicinity of Case Grande, Florence, and Gila Bend. And I’m asking you, when you referred to each of those three areas, did you mean to be referring specifically to Indian lands that the tribe already had in trust?”
- A. “No.”
- Q. “How would somebody involved in those conversations have known that you were referring to something more broadly than those specific lands that the Nation already had in trust?”
- A. “Because the vast majority of the people who were involved in those conversations would have understood the ability to acquire additional Indian lands.”
- Q. “And how would they have understood about the ability to acquire additional Indian lands?”
- A. “Most of them would have read the IGRA (federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).”
- Q. “But that doesn’t—the IGRA doesn’t give anybody any specific right to acquire additional Indian lands. Right?”
- A. “No, it does not.”
On pages 87-89 the line of questioning corroborates the TON’s belief that it can locate additional casinos in the Phoenix metro area. Mr. Quigley asserts the same belief that can be found in the above reference to the judge’s questioning of the TON’s attorney Seth Waxman in December of 2015.
- Q. “Is it correct that under the Nation’s interpretation of the Gila Bend Act (IGRA) and the compact, it could, if it so chose, and if this made economic sense, close all of its existing facilities and locate four casinos in the Phoenix market?”
- A. “With the exception of the limitation on a fourth facility, if the Nation operates four facilities, the compact has no limitations on where the Nation’s Indian lands it can place its facilities other than the mile-and-a-half restriction.”
- Q. “So if – if, for example, the Nation were to acquire under the Gila Bend Act (IGRA) and have taken into trust parcels of land that were – it’s understood if they were taken into trust, they would be on unincorporated land on county islands or directly across the municipal limits of Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale, that would be acceptable under the Nation’s view of what the compact limitation are with respect to the location of facilities?”
- A. “What do you mean when you say ‘that would be acceptable’?”
- Q. That would be legally permissible. It’s the Nation’s position that that would be allowed by the compact?”
- A. “If the Nation acquired lands under the Gila Bend Act (IGRA) in the locations that you specified, and if those lands were taken into trust, and if those lands were eligible for gaming, then the compact, I believe would allow the Nation to conduct gaming on those lands, assuming they met the requirements of the mile and a half between facilities and the met the requirements for the fourth facility.”
Clearly both attorneys representing the Tohono O’odham Nation, Waxman and Quigley, hold the legal opinion and have counseled their client such that the TO can establish additional casinos in the Phoenix metro area. We know that the TO owns additional land in the area. We don’t know how much or where. It may just be a matter of time. If the TO prevail against the state in court and is granted a liquor license at the Glendale casino, katy bar the door…more casinos will come.
Did you know that there are approximately 200 parcels of unincorporated land (county islands) in the Phoenix metro area? The TO used a shell company to buy the land in Glendale and they could do the same to acquire additional parcels. Are you ready to have a casino near your neighborhood in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert or Mesa? It may happen.
The consequences of such action would be catastrophic. It would provide incentive needed by the state legislature to open gaming to non-Tribal entities. If they were to do so the state would receive sales tax, property tax, etc. from non-Tribal casinos. It makes the prospect very attractive at a time when revenues often times do not cover all of the state’s needs. Currently there is no tax per se paid by the Tribal casinos. Under the existent compact there is what is defined as “tribal contributions.” They are distributed as follows:
- 12% distributed by the Tribes to the cities, towns and counties of their choosing for community services and public safety programs for local governments
- The remaining 88% of the Tribes’ total annual contribution goes to the Arizona Benefits Fund on a quarterly basis and provides funding for the Arizona Department of Gaming and the Office of Problem Gambling. The remaining funds are distributed as follows:
- 56% to instructional improvement for schools
- 8% to trauma and emergency care
- 8% to Arizona tourism
- 8% to wildlife conservation
It would blow up the existent voter approved state Gaming Compact of 2002 and would make it very difficult to negotiate and to seek voter approval on a new compact as voters would be reluctant to rely on any public statements about its provisions. After all, it was sold to the voters with the promise that “there would be no new casinos in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.” As Mr. Quigley stated on page 177 of his deposition, “I do not think it would be a fair statement to say that one could rely on any statements in there (referring to the 2002 voter information guide) as necessarily being correct.” If the TO has a bridge to sell, would you buy it?
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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