With new sovereign land granted as a result of a bill signed by President Biden at the end of December, the Pascua Yaqui tribe could build a casino in Tucson. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
The law makes sovereign territory a reality
The Pascua Yaqui tribe of Arizona may soon be able to build a casino in Tucson thanks to federal legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden just a few days ago. On December 27, President Biden signed the Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act, placing 40 acres of land on the west side of Tucson into a trust on behalf of the tribe.
The area, which covers a roughly triangular area south of West Grant Road, east of Interstate 10, northwest of Calle Adelanto, and west of North 15th Avenue, is now sovereign land, allowing the Pascua Yaqui tribe to build a casino on it. In addition to the gambling venue, the tribe plans to preserve religious buildings and build new residences.
Fostering the continuous transmission of Yaqui knowledge, culture, history and traditions.”
US Representative Raoul M. Grijalva, the sponsor of the law, said when it passed the US House of Representatives in November that it would “raise the standard of tribal living, improve system coordination and integration of service delivery, and promote the continuous transmission of Yaqui knowledge, culture, history, and traditions to future generations.”
Tribe and city will work together
The Pascua Yaqui tribe entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Tucson in 2019 to prepare for the possibility of acquiring the land. The city will continue to provide some services to the area, including fire protection, law enforcement, and other emergency services. In addition, the city will maintain transportation services, traffic controls, and garbage collection.
In return, the tribe would pay “transaction privilege taxes”. Tucson.com says these taxes will be “based on revenue,” And while the news outlet didn’t specify, it appears to imply gaming revenue.
The city of Tucson will also continue to provide the new Sovereign with water service, but the tribe will provide any future casino with its own water.
Lots of gambling options in Arizona
There are 25 casinos in Arizona, which are operated by Native American tribes. Four of them are in the greater Tucson area. The Casino del Sol Resort and Casino of the Sun, operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and the Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel, operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation, are both located in Tucson. Another Desert Diamond casino, also operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation, is located in Why, just west of Tucson.
Most Arizona casinos opened in the 1990s. The first two are We-Ko-PA Casino & Resort and Yavapai Casino, both of which opened in 1992. The most recent is Apache Sky Casino, which welcomed customers for the first time in 2017.
The country launched its legal sports betting marketplace on September 9, 2021, allowing retail and mobile betting. It got off to a massive start, with $291 million and $486 million in September and October, respectively. Those numbers were the best among the six states that launched sports betting in the first 11 months of 2021. The numbers have gone up and down since then, but they look solid overall.
The last month for which pot numbers were published was September 2022, which saw $538 million in dealings, the third-best month for Arizona, likely buoyed by the start of the NFL and college football seasons. The best months were March 2022 ($691 million), likely due to NCAA March Madness and January 2022 ($564 million), possibly due to NFL and college football games.