casino 1Having read my previous post on the casino you should have a pretty good idea as to where the proposed casino will be sited and what people and properties will be impacted. Let’s go back in history to see what was occurring regarding the whole issue of Tribal gaming in the early 2000’s.

Long before the casino was a gleam in the eyes of the Tohono O’odham, in the mid-1990’s the land (approximately 135 acres) was owned by Jerry Kowalsky. Mr. Kowalsky and his group purchased the land in order to establish Icon Movie Studio. In tandem with submitting his plan he also started the procedure to annex the land. His plan was not approved by council. The dream died. Land that had been annexed was later deannexed by the city. His plan for a movie studio, some say, was never welcomed by the mayor. It was rumored at the time that she did not like the gentleman and did not believe he has the financing in place. Well, we all know now what a good judge of character and financial ability she turned out to be – witness Ellman and Moyes, both of whom promised much and delivered little. I supported Mr. Kowalsky’s plan. I believed it would be a catalyst to bring jobs and to cause support businesses  to locate there. Do you remember a movie, The Passion of Christ, produced by Icon Studios? It made a bazillion dollars. So much for Icon and its financial capabilities.

Ned Norris Jr Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman

Ned Norris Jr.
Tohono O’odham
Nation Chairman

DianeEnos Pres Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community

Diane Enos
Salt River
Indian Community

It is widely known that since the spring of 2001 at the very latest, the Tohono O’odham was looking at West Valley locations for a possible casino site. they originally looked in the Buckeye area but their consultants advised them it was too far out and needed to be closer and in fact, suggested Glendale.While they were land shopping the talk of the state was a tribal gaming compact scheduled to go before the voters of the state in the election of 2002 known as Proposition 202. In the years previous all of the tribes in the state had met and worked collectively to hammer out the parameters of the proposed compact before bringing it to the state and the voters. The Tohono O’odham were heavily engaged in the inter-tribal discussions to hammer out this framework. Lately in court, the Tohono O’odham has been saying that they were unaware of any discussion to keep casinos out of metropolitan areas. Yet governors and legal counsel representing the tribes have flatly stated that the TO’s involvement in the process was full and robust.  In fact, Ned Norris, Jr. currently President of the TO Nation, actively and publicly stumped for passage of Prop 202 knowing full well its provisions and implications. The TO also contributed substantial funding for the publicity campaign used to persuade voters. All the while they were meeting secretly among one another to acquire land in the Phoenix metropolitan area. No wonder they wanted to retain their 4 casino allocation. They never planned to build the 4th casino in the Gila Bend area-they were too busy planning for the Phoenix area.

The following comes directly from the publicity pamphlet entitled, Yes on 202: The 17-Tribe Indian Self-Reliance Initiative, Answers to Common Questions, published and mailed to every registered voter in the state in the spring of 2001:

prop 202

According to the Prop 202 voter education pamphlet issued by the Arizona Secretary of State: “Voting “yes” on Proposition 202 ensures that no new casinos will be built in the Phoenix metropolitan area and only one in the Tucson area for at least 23 years.”

Gregory Mendoza President of Gila River Indian Community

Gregory Mendoza
Gila River
Indian Community

In Congressional hearings on the issue held last year Gila River Indian Community Governor Gregory Mendoza stated, “No new casinos in the Phoenix metropolitan area was a requirement made clear to all 17 tribes involved in the compact negotiations. It was a key commitment and without it there would never have been acceptance or the passage of Prop 202.”

The voter-approved Proposition 202 was rooted in three key elements:

  • Indian casinos would be kept out of neighborhoods;
  • Each tribe agreed to a specific casino allocation; some even gave up rights to additional casinos in order to limit the number within the state; and
  • Then Governor Jane Dee Hull in the Prop 202 voter education pamphlet issued by the Arizona Secretary of State, echoed the same with, “Voting ‘’yes” on Proposition 202 ensures that no new casinos will be built in the Phoenix metropolitan area and only one in the Tucson area for at least 23 years.” This was a lynch-pin issue for the Governor. Without it she was not willing to advocate for or sign a compact.

In December 2002 the Tohono O’odham and the state executed the voter approved compact and in February 2003 the United States Secretary of the Interior approved the compact. All the while Rainer Resources, Inc., a Delaware company with a Seattle mailing address acting as a Tohono O’odham shell company, secretly sought land in the Phoenix Metropolitan area for a casino.

In August of 2003, the TO under the guise of its shell company bought the land, knowing that it was within Glendale’s boundaries. Back in the 70’s there were “land wars” and each city staked out territory for future annexation. Glendale’s recognized western boundaries were set at Northern Avenue as its north boundary and Camelback Road as its south boundary. Any unincorporated land between those two boundaries could only be annexed into Glendale. The TO knew that for it had been policy and formally recognized for at least 30 years.

All that I have related regarding the TO’s actions can be found in the most recent court filing of April 14, 2013 and can be accessed by using this link:


George W.

In 2003 there was absolute silence and the TO waited. Why? For a more favorable President and administration to assist them with their agena. They needed an administration to interpret the law favorably. George W. Bush, a Republican, was President at the time and his administration would not have supported the TO’s stealth move. So, they continued to wait until times and administrations became more favorable. In 2008, Barack Obama, a Democrat, was elected as the nation’s President. Good times for the TO had arrived. The tribe had waited 6 years. It was now 2008 and their time had come and they would not be denied.  Van Jones, President Obama’s former Green Jobs Czar, said this about Native Americans, “No more broken treaties. No more broken treaties. Give them the wealth. Give them the wealth. Give them dignity. Give them the respect they deserve. No justice on stolen land. We owe them a debt.”



Almost immediately upon Obama’s inauguration, in late January of 2009, the TO literally descended upon Glendale’s City Hall and announced that they were coming…take it or leave it, like it or lump it. On January 28, 2009, the Tribe met with city staff and informed them that they had  transferred the land into its own name and had filed an application asking the Secretary of the Interior take the proposed casino site into trust so that it could be used for gaming. On the following day, the TO issued a press release with their intention to build a “Las Vegas-style” casino on the site. Two months later, city staff, having requested more specific information from the TO for their next meeting, met with the Tribe. The Tribe declined to provide any information until they had successfully secured reservation status. They knew they were now in the “cat-bird’s” seat and cooperation was not necessary to secure their objective.

So far, I have not broached the subject of the casino and its siting. Next up will be the casino and its implications for an urbanized area.