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More Arizona Mayors Seek Congressional Action on 'Off-Reservation' Gaming

Mayors Intensify Efforts To Stop 'Off-Reservation' Gaming And Push For Hearing on H.R. 1410

PHOENIX, March 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- H.R. 1410, the Keep the Promise Act, which would resolve the 'off-reservation' gaming issue in Arizona and bring a sigh of relief to all cities and towns that have county parcels within their boundaries, has received support by more mayors in Arizona. Mayors from Scottsdale, Tempe, Litchfield Park, Gilbert and Glendale voiced their collective support for a Congressional resolution in 2013 and in the past few months, mayors from Apache Junction, Fountain Hills, and Phoenix City Councilman Jim Waring have joined their stance. 

"There is growing understanding among mayors and city councils about the negative series of events that could be set in motion if the Tohono O'odham Nation continues to ignore commitments made to elected officials, other tribes and voters during the Indian gaming compact negotiations, and builds a casino within the city limits of Glendale," said City of Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell. "Without Congressional action, sites in our cities are potential targets for aggressive 'urban gaming'; ultimately untouchable because of sovereign immunity. It's a fear that has inspired us to write personal letters to Senator McCain, requesting that this bill be heard, resolving this matter in our state once and for all."

H.R. 1410 is clear, easy-to-understand legislation: it prohibits any additional tribal casinos in the metro-Phoenix area until the expiration of existing tribal-state gaming compacts in 2027 when all stakeholders involved can engage in a fair, transparent and public process. H.R. 1410 passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a super majority vote, but awaits a hearing in the Senate.

H.R. 1410 addresses a loophole that would allow the Tohono O'odham Nation of Tucson to create an Indian reservation in the middle of the City of Glendale, miles away from their reservation, without any input from residents or local officials. If permitted, this tribe has argued in court litigation that it also has the right to create three additional Indian reservations within the Phoenix metropolitan area to build casinos. 

The growing roster of mayors opposing casinos within city limits goes as far back as 2009, when mayors from Buckeye, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Surprise and Youngtown took a public position on the issue. The following have sent personal letters to Senator McCain requesting a hearing for H.R. 1410: Jim Lane, Mayor of Scottsdale; Mark Mitchell, Mayor of Tempe; Jerry Weiers, Mayor of Glendale; Thomas L. Schoaf, Mayor of Litchfield Park; John Lewis, Mayor of Gilbert; John Insalaco, Mayor of Apache Junction; Linda Kavanagh, Mayor of Fountain Hills; and City of Phoenix Councilman Jim Waring

The matter has the potential to set a new precedent whereby the Tohono O'odham Nation—a tribe from Southern Arizona—can go into any city in Maricopa County, purchase land and convert it into an Indian reservation/casino property. All of this comes after the Tohono O'odham Nation made public promises during Indian gaming compact negotiations with state, city and their peer tribal leaders in Arizona making a commitment to no more casinos in the Phoenix-metro area.

As a result, Senator McCain sent a letter on Friday, February 28, 2014, to Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs requesting a hearing regarding his concerns surrounding "off reservation" gambling.

"Without Congressional action, cities in Maricopa County with county islands are potential targets for off-reservation gaming" said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell.  "It is time for Congress to reverse what is becoming a growing trend nationwide for tribes to reservation-shop in metropolitan areas."

Local leaders await a hearing by the U.S. Senate. The public can express their opinion by going to www.keepingthepromiseaz.com.  

SOURCE Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

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