Tag Archives: tohono oodham nation

SRPMIC Justice Center, Courtesy of Gould Evans

Justice for All: Construction in Indian Country

There are 22 casinos in Arizona. One planned casino currently under construction on the Tohono O’odham Nation will cost $600M, bring in $100M in economic impact during the construction process and about $300M once it’s fully functional, according to reports by Indian Country Today.

Income from tribal businesses, including casinos, is the only non-federal funding many tribes have due to an inability to levy property and income taxes. A portion of gaming funds must be reintroduced into the community to fund the tribal government, economic development and the general welfare of members, among other things. However, many tribes still cannot always afford to maintain healthcare, education and judicial projects.

Indian Health Services (IHS) determines which healthcare projects will be constructed in Indian Country. According to its website, there are only nine facilities in Arizona. For a four-year span, between 2009 and 2013, only three projects nationally were selected to receive funding — one was a hospital in San Carlos, Ariz., awarded to McCarthy Building Companies in 2009, with a five-year funding forecast and completion expected in late 2012. The project was completed in December 2014.


Ak-Chin Justice Center Lobby

Around the time that work commenced on the project, Congress significantly tightened up on domestic spending, which had an impact on the Department of Interior, which controls funding for IHS through the Department of Health & Human Services. The cuts affected the San Carlos hospital project funding during fiscal years 2010 through 2012.

“The cuts had an effect on the construction approach and project momentum,” says Eric Doran, project director for McCarthy Building Companies on the San Carlos hospital. “To ensure that progress continued, albeit at a slowed pace, we collaborated with the project architect RMKM and the client and adjusted our plan by breaking the project into manageable pieces that could be completed within the budget allocated each year. Basically, we created small construction packages within the overall project budget each year and were able to keep the project moving forward. This approach is a more expensive way to build, but our construction team worked to ensure funds were allocated to the right things at the right time in order to minimize cost escalation and value engineering non-critical items, while keeping key design elements in the project.”


Ak-Chin Justice Center

McCarthy was awarded another healthcare facility at Ft. Yuma about a year later, but the project remains on the IHS list as it waits for funding and the initial award was rescinded.

“Having a five-year timeline for construction was much longer than expected, and the delays were the result of funding issues that the IHS faced, so you can see that even projects that receive initial funding are subject to budgetary issues (or delays in this case) based upon congressional allocation of funding to IHS, which usually occurs annually,” says a spokeswoman for McCarthy.

When it comes to funding for other public service projects, including schools and judicial centers, more tribes seem to be dipping into funds raised by funding and owning their own public improvements, according to Kitchell’s Kari McCormick. Though McCarthy Building Companies isn’t seeing the same trend.

“In healthcare, we are not seeing any large projects come to market that do not have IHS funding,” says Doran.

Even Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC), a tribal community that has seen charter schools and self-funded judicial projects, is working with IHS in the development of an ambulatory center that would utilize federal funds if approved.

Kitchell’s McCormick says self-funded hospitals are happening primarily outside of Arizona. However, those that are, she says, are most likely using Public Law 93-638, a self-determination contracting law.

Kayenta MPJC 20141119_exterior_01

Kayenta Multi-Purpose Justice Center

“You have to remember a lot of the tribes don’t have the higher level of healthcare provided to them,” says McCormick. “A lot come down to Phoenix Indian Medical Center.”

Kitchell has worked on a large number of detention centers in America. Ak-Chin’s new justice center, constructed by Kitchell, was largely funded by the tribe. However, even if a tribe self-funds, in order to qualify for operational or other federal aid, the buildings must be constructed to Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, standards.

“Tribes with gaming funds often use those funds to support their communities with various construction projects,” says  Justin Kelton, executive vice president of McCarthy’s Arizona construction. McCarthy has completed numerous casino and hospitality projects, as well as water treatment facilities for tribes in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and California.

Kitchell, on the other hand, is seeing a need for more judicial, healthcare and education facilities on tribal land.

“Tribes are trying to reinvest in their communities,” says McCormick, adding, “The gaming market has matured now, so [tribes] can put it toward what they wanted to do. Unfortunately, the non-gaming tribes are not at that same stage.”

SW corner view_01 day

Southwest corner view

According to a report by the National Congress of American Indians, there are only 2,380 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and tribal uniformed officers to serve 1.4 million Indians on 56 million acres (in the contiguous U.S.). This comes out to about 1.3 officers per 1,000 citizens. In non-Indian communities, that number is about 2.9 officers per 1,000 in populations less than 10,000. The report estimates a minimum of 4,290 officers are needed in Indian Country.

Kitchell has completed two justice-related projects since December 2013. The Kayenta Multi-Purpose Justice Center, funded federally through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, on the Navajo Nation brought 64 mixed-use beds, raised control rooms, booking and recreation areas and staff offices in 50KSF. More recently, Kitchell completed the Ak-Chin Justice Center in Maricopa, which houses tribal courts, police and detention facilities (36 beds ranging from minimum to maximum security), office suites for lawyers, programs, judges and clerks and a shooting range. The center was designed with input of 15 tribes.

Not all tribes have their own jails, says McCormick. Some contract with county or local jurisdictions when their members are arrested.


Ak-Chin Justice Center night exterior

“Well overdue for the community, the complex replaces a series of run down trailer buildings that initially housed these functions,” writes Kitchell Senior Editor Karen Strauss in a RED Award nomination. “This in and of itself will have an impact on the health, safety and welfare of the users and community.”

Upcoming is a 92KSF facility on the SRPMIC. It will consolidate judicial, court administration and legal services. The project will be funded by general revenues from all community enterprises, including gaming, says SRPMIC President Delbert W. Ray, Sr.

“As economic development activity increases along with new federal laws (i.e. the Tribal Law and Order Act and Violence Against Women Act) there is an increased demand to have a robust judicial system that adapts to the foreseen growth,” says Ray.


Glendale OKs casino near Westgate

After months of diligent negotiation, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the City of Glendale have finalized an agreement ensuring that the West Valley Resort project provides significant mutual benefits to both communities for years to come.

In taking this step, the City of Glendale confirms its full support of the Nation’s project, which will include construction of a $400 million resort and casino on its West Valley property. The agreement conveys Glendale’s desire that the Nation constructs and opens the West Valley Resort as expeditiously as possible in order to create jobs and positive economic opportunity in the community.

Under the agreement, Glendale also recognizes that the Nation’s project has never been within its corporate limits or the boundaries of any other city or town. The City supports taking the entirety of the Nation’s West Valley property into federal trust as reservation land, as had been originally requested. Glendale will also withdraw from any litigation against the project.

In return, the Nation has committed to providing Glendale with annual funding in excess of $26 million during a 20-year agreement, including a one-time payment of $500,000 within the next ten days. As promised from day one, the Nation will pay for construction of the facility, as well as municipal services and all infrastructure costs in and around the project site. The Nation will then pay Glendale’s monthly standard fees and service charge rates for commercial customers. This support is in addition to the economic benefits the project will bring to Glendale and the region.

Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. said, “This agreement marks a major step forward for the Nation, Glendale, and the entire West Valley, one that will lead to greater prosperity for all our communities. The Nation looks forward to continued partnership with Glendale as we work together to create jobs and a world-class entertainment destination.”

In March 2014 the Glendale City Council also joined with other cities in the West Valley in opposing HR 1410, special interest legislation designed to stop the West Valley Resort and the thousands of jobs and economic development it would create.

Glendale is the fifth largest city in Arizona with more than 234,000 residents and four distinct areas: the Historic Downtown, the Sports and Entertainment District, the Arrowhead area and the Loop 303 expansion. The city is home to Luke Air Force Base, professional sports teams from the NFL, NHL and MLB and several higher education facilities. Visit www.glendaleaz.com for more information.

The Tohono O’odham Nation is a federally-recognized Indian tribe, with existing reservation lands in Maricopa County, Pinal County, and Pima County, Arizona. According to the Nation, the West Valley Resort will be located at 95th and Northern avenues and will generate thousands of new jobs and more than $300 million in annual economic impact. For more information, visit www.westvalleyopportunity.com.

Top 5: Arizona Casinos - Experience AZ Fall-Winter 2012

Senators Urged to Preserve Future of Indian Gaming in Arizona

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.”

Top 5: Arizona Casinos - Experience AZ Fall-Winter 2012

Glendale supports tribe’s casino plan

The Glendale City Council has approved a resolution to support the Tohono O’Odham Nation’s proposal to build a casino near the city’s sports and entertainment district.

The council voted 4-3 Tuesday to back the plan that the tribe projects will have a $300 million annual economic impact.

The Tohono O’Odham has been pushing a proposal to build a sprawling, Las Vegas-style casino since January 2009.

The Gila River Indian Community opposes the plan, saying it violates zoning and state laws and threatens the balance of tribal gaming in Arizona.

Opponents also argue a 2002 voter-backed compact bars more casinos from opening in metro Phoenix.

Gila River tribal officials say opponents will continue to do everything possible to stop the project.

The Tohono O’odham already operates several casinos in southern Arizona.


DOI decision keeps Glendale casino plan alive

The Tohono O’odham Nation says the U.S. Department of the Interior has reaffirmed its decision that the tribe’s property lies within unincorporated Maricopa County.

Tribal officials say that’s a key requirement for taking the land into trust. They still hope to build a massive resort and casino on the edge of Glendale and have been pushing that plan since 2009.

But opponents have argued a 2002 voter-backed compact barred more casinos from opening in metro Phoenix.

The Gila River Indian Community opposes the casino plan, saying it violates zoning and state laws.

Gila River tribal officials say they will decide soon whether to take legal action again.

They also say the Interior Department has yet to decide whether the Tohono O’Odham Nation has permission to have gaming on the land.

AIGA's Spicer Was Featured Speaker in London

Valerie Spicer, Executive Director Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA), was a featured panelist at ICE Totally Gaming seminar, “Opportunities in Indian Country” on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, in London, UK.  The seminar is co-produced by ICE Totally Gaming and Victor Rocha of PECHANGA.net in cooperation with Clarion Gaming’s Ewa Bakun.  Spicer is featured on the panel “Tribal Perspectives on internet gaming and overview of the tribal iGaming ventures.”

“I’m very fortunate that Valerie is able to join me at the ICE Totally Gaming conference in London as a panelist for the Opportunities in Indian Country:  Tribal Gaming Seminars,” said Victor Rocha.  “Val brings an extraordinary background in tribal gaming having worked in both the public and private sectors.  She not only has the respect of our industry, she was recently recognized as a Great Woman of Gaming, Proven Leader by Casino Enterprise Management.  I couldn’t ask for a better person to represent Indian Country in Europe.”

ICE Totally Gaming is the biggest gaming exhibition in the world. ICE 8 Conferences provide in-depth opportunities to learn through case studies, interactive discussions and focused networking about the most exciting areas in gaming. The seminars on Opportunities in Indian Country are free to participants at ICE Totally Gaming and designed to educate the European gaming industry about tribal gaming, the opportunities and impacts.

“The European market has conducted internet gaming for many years.  This program is a timely opportunity for us to engage with this market.  We anticipate an excellent exchange of information,” said Valerie Spicer, Executive Director AIGA. “Tribes will get qualified information on internet and social gaming and the potential business opportunities that can result, more importantly we can tell our story to the European market.  Personally I’m looking forward to explaining the difference between commercial and tribal gaming and how the economic impact from tribal gaming ripples through our communities and also positively affects our neighboring communities.”

The Arizona Indian Gaming Association has a membership of 17 tribes representing more than 90% of the Indian people living on reservations in Arizona. AIGA was established November 21, 1994 by Arizona tribal leaders.  The Association is committed to advancing the lives of Indian peoples – economically, socially and politically – so that Indian tribes in Arizona can achieve their goal of self-reliance.  Current membership includes:  Ak-Chin Indian Community, Cocopah Tribe, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Fort Mojave, Fort Yuma-Quechan Tribe, Gila River Indian Community, Havasupai  Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab-Paiute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe,  Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Tohono O’odham Nation,  White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the Zuni Tribe.

For more information about ICE, visit http://www.icetotallygaming.com/opportunities-indian-country or ICE Totally Gaming: http://www.icetotallygaming.com/.

casino indian gaming

Indian tribe will appeal Glendale casino ruling

An Indian tribe in Arizona has told a judge it intends to appeal his decision that concluded another Indian tribe’s plan to build a casino on the edge of Glendale was legal.

The Gila River Indian Community is appealing U.S. District Judge David Campbell’s May 7 ruling in which he said the Tohono O’odham Nation’s plan to build the casino was legal because the state’s voter-approved gambling compacts didn’t contain language prohibiting new casino construction.

The state of Arizona, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community sued the Tohono O’odham Nation to stop the casino.

They said it violates zoning and state laws and would disrupt residential neighborhoods.

The Tohono O’odham Nation unveiled its plans for the massive resort and casino in 2009.


Tribe Scores Legals Win In Bid To Build Casino In Glendale

An Arizona tribe with plans to build a casino and resort on property it purchased near Glendale scored a key victory Tuesday when a federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Department of Interior rightfully awarded reservation status to a section of the land.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a split decision rejecting arguments by the city of Glendale that the property is ineligible for such status because it falls within its corporate limits. The property is an unincorporated island of Maricopa County and bordered on three sides by Glendale.

Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. characterized the lawsuit that challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to award reservation status in 2010 as another delaying tactic.

“Just as courts and federal agencies have done eight straight times before, the 9th Circuit weighed the arguments and then ruled in the nation’s favor,” he said in a statement. “The court reaffirmed today that when the federal government makes a commitment to Native peoples, it will stand by those commitments.”

At issue was whether federal law permitted the tribe to convert the property it quietly purchased in 2003 into an Indian reservation, which would strip authority from state and local officials who argued the casino project clashes with zoning and state laws.

Federal law generally bars gambling on reservations created after 1988, but there are a few exceptions.

The tribe purchased the property with congressionally allocated money it was given after a federal government dam caused extensive flooding of its original reservation.

Glendale, the state of Arizona and another tribe had sued to overturn the DOI decision. A spokeswoman for the city and for the state Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

About 30,000 people live within two miles of where the casino is to be erected.

The tribe still faces other legal and regulatory challenges in building a casino. Opponents, including other tribes, contend the Tohono O’odham Nation went “reservation shopping” with the government’s money and shouldn’t be allowed to turn just any piece of property it purchases into a reservation and then a casino the size of the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

casino indian gaming

Appeals Court Hears Tribe’s Glendale Casino Project

A federal appeals court on Monday has taken up an Arizona Indian tribe’s complicated legal fight to build a massive casino and resort near a Glendale neighborhood, on property the tribe owns 160 miles from the headquarters of its sprawling reservation.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco gave no hint of how or when it would rule after sharply questioning lawyers on both sides for nearly an hour.

At issue is whether federal law permits the Tohono O’odham Nation to convert property it quietly purchased in 2003 into an Indian reservation, which would strip authority from state and local officials who argue the casino project clashes with zoning and state laws.

A high school is located a few blocks from where the casino is to be erected, which is about a mile from a retail and entertainment district where Phoenix’s professional football and hockey teams play their home games. About 30,000 people live within two miles.

The suburban property is in an unincorporated island of Maricopa County and bordered on three sides by the city of Glendale, which is adjacent to Phoenix.

Local and state officials argue that the proposed 150,000-square-foot casino will require them to beef up fire, police and other civic requirements in an area not equipped to accommodate a Las Vegas-style resort.

The tribe says it bought the property with congressionally allocated money it was given after a federal government dam caused extensive flooding of the original reservation.

The Department of the Interior declared the Glendale property a reservation in 2010.

The tribe had received $30 million to replace nearly 10,000 acres of ancestral reservation land damaged by the dam. The tribe says the 135 acres purchased within the city limits of Glendale in 2003 is part of that replacement program, and the project is located about 60 miles from the damaged land.

Glendale, the state of Arizona and another tribe filed a lawsuit to overturn the Department of the Interior decision. Several other tribes submitted so-called friend-of-the-court briefs opposing the casino. A judge last year sided with the Tohono O’odham Nation, which is represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman.

“This is an acre-for-acre replacement that was an Indian reservation even before Arizona was a state,” Waxman argued to the three-judge panel Monday. He said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar correctly deemed the land a reservation.

Lawyers for Glendale and tribes opposing the project argued that the Tohono O’odham Nation went “reservation shopping” with the government’s money and shouldn’t be allowed to turn just any piece of property it purchases into a reservation and then a sprawling casino the size of the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Arizona Solicitor General Dave Cole said allowing the tribe to build a casino within Glendale but denying city, county and state officials any authority over the project makes the concept of local control “nothing more than an illusion.”

Federal law generally bars gambling on reservations created after 1988, but there are a few exceptions.

For more information on the Tohono O’odham Nation and this issue, visit www.tonation-nsn.gov.