- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A lawyer for a southern Arizona tribe urged a federal judge Thursday to order the state to issue licenses for a tribal casino near Glendale, saying it was time to stop years of unsuccessful efforts to block the facility.

Attorney Danielle Spinelli told U.S. District Judge David Campbell that the latest efforts by Arizona to stop the casino from opening extend even to types of gambling it is allowed to operate without state oversight.

“At some point, I think it’s time to say ‘enough is enough,’” she told Campbell.

The Tohono O’Odham Nation’s $200 million casino, called the West Valley Resort, will open in December with bingo-style machines but won’t be allowed to have slot machines or many card or other games allowed under a full casino license, Spinelli said.

That’s because state Gaming Department Director Daniel Bergin told the tribe in April that he would not certify the new operation as a casino. Bergin took the position at the urging of Gov. Doug Ducey.

Ducey said in an April 8 letter to Bergin that the tribe engaged in fraud because it didn’t disclose its plans for a casino in the Phoenix area while negotiating a gambling compact with the state. He also said Arizona has the right to cancel its entire gambling compact with the tribe.

The judge ruled in 2013 that the gambling compact did not contain language prohibiting new casino construction. That ruling is being appealed.

Other tribes also oppose the casino, which they and the state say break terms of the compact that bar any additional casinos in the Phoenix area. The Tohono O’Odham has casinos near Tucson.

The tribe bought the site after receiving a $30 million federal settlement to replace nearly 10,000 acres of ancestral reservation land damaged by a dam. It unveiled its plans for the massive resort and casino near the University of Phoenix stadium in 2009.

Lawyers for the state told Campbell that he should dismiss the tribe’s case because it was a dispute over how to apply the gambling compact, which should be in arbitration, not federal court. Attorney Matthew McGill said Arizona was simply giving the tribe notice that is was not likely to be approved.

“The nation has been constructing the West Valley Resort at a breakneck pace, pouring in millions or hundreds of millions of dollars,” McGill said. “Bergin gave them fair warning.”

Campbell noted at the start of the hearing that his previous rulings had not decided if the casino complied with all aspects of the gambling compact. And both sides essentially acknowledged that they wanted him to rule on whether the compact allowed the state to withhold licenses under its stated reasons.

“They haven’t pointed to any provision in the compact that allows them to do what they are doing,” Spinelli said.

Campbell said he’d issue a ruling within several weeks.

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