Divided Glendale City Council OKs agreement for tribe's planned casino in Phoenix area

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GLENDALE, Arizona — A sharply divided Glendale City Council has approved an agreement with a southern Arizona tribe to build a casino and resort in the suburban city.

The 4-3 vote Tuesday night followed a 4½-hour meeting, months of negotiations and years of litigation and political battles between Glendale and the Tohono O'odham Nation, which is based in Sells, approximately 110 miles south of the Phoenix area.

Key provisions of the agreement include the tribe paying the financially ailing city $26 million over 20 years, including an up-front payment of $500,000 within 10 days, and the city withdrawing from litigation against the $400 million project.

While supporters say the project will boost the economy and provide jobs, opponents criticize its expansion of casino gambling within the Phoenix area, where other tribes already operate several casinos on the outskirts.

Members of the state's congressional delegation have proposed legislation to block the casino project, but that legislation so far is not moving forward.

The tribe bought the land in 2003, and it since has been placed in trust for it by the federal Department of Interior as part of compensation for reservation land used for a flood-control project. A federal law allowed the tribe to purchase land to replace the reservation land.

The casino would be near sports facilities that are homes to the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and the NHL's Arizona Coyotes.

The site is located on unincorporated land surrounded by the city, and the tribe would be responsible to pay for all required infrastructure.

"This is a fair deal. The property does not belong to us, yet not one subsidy, not one cent will be coming from the city," said Councilman Sam Chavira.

An opponent of the agreement, Councilman Manny Martinez, said Glendale could have done much better in the talks.

"This deal is not even close. It's not equitable," he said.

Tuesday's 4-3 vote approving the agreement mirrored a July vote in which the council agreed to reverse its earlier opposition to the project.

Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said tribal officials will meet to discuss a construction timetable, but tribal leaders have said in the past they hope the new gambling facility, with about 150,000-square feet of gambling area, to begin operations in the late 2016.

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