Congress has the power to intervene in a growing national practice and problem of ‘off-reservation gaming,’ or ‘reservation-shopping.’ The topic was at the heart of an oversight hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today, titled, “Indian Gaming: The Next 25 Years,” and included discussion of H.R. 1410—the bi-partisan bill to solve the problem faced by the city of Glendale in Arizona, that will protect the integrity of Indian Gaming in the state, but would also be a beacon to cities and towns across the U.S. that find themselves in similar circumstances.
A prelude to a vote on H.R. 1410 by the U.S. Senate, today’s hearing included testimony from Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) President, Diane Enos and City of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, excerpts from their testimony follow, full transcripts can be found at www.indian.senate.gov.
SRPMIC President, Diane Enos opened her remarks, by saying, “For over 20 years Arizona Indian Gaming has been stable, predictable, and successful. However, sadly, its future in Arizona does not look good. It is threatened by the actions of one tribe. H.R. 1410, the ”Keep the Promise Act,” which is pending before the Committee, will help protect Indian gaming in Arizona. We respectfully urge the Committee to pass it.”
SRPMIC President explained to the Senators that private non-Indian gaming companies were always hovering over Arizona looking for an opportunity, a loophole, to overthrow Indian Gaming exclusivity, but that today, that exclusivity, and the current Indian Gaming compacts were jeopardized from within, by the Tohono O’odham Nation:
“This plan by the Tohono O’odham of building an additional casino in the Phoenix-metro area directly violates promises that they made, that other Arizona tribes made, and that the Governor of Arizona made to citizens who approved our compacts in November 2002,” stated Enos. In 2002, then-Governor Jane D. Hull announced that the compacts she and 17 tribes had negotiated for two and a half years – if approved by the voters – would ensure there would be “no additional casinos allowed in the Phoenix metropolitan area”. This promise of “no additional casinos in the Phoenix-metro area” was made by Tribes and the Governor over and over to the voters, Enos said, “because we believed it.”
City of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers addressed the powerlessness of local government in this situation, saying, “Our choice was not ideal: continue to fight and hope for action from this body, or give in to this casino being forced on us. It is frustrating to be a city of our size and have no voice on a casino proposed by a tribal government more than a hundred miles away.”
Weiers also spoke up about what this means for other cities, “Our sister cities know that unless Congress acts, they may be next. There are over 200 other county islands in the Phoenix metropolitan area. And the Tohono O’odham Nation attorneys have said the Tribe has the right to close its existing three casinos and open them on these county islands. We are a test case, but it is the start of a very slippery slope. If Congress does not act, the entire Phoenix area should be prepared for more off-reservation casinos.”