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Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Clarification Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. At this time, I yield 5 minutes to the author of the bill, Congressman Franks from Arizona.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Young and Chairman Hastings and the House leadership for bringing this bill to the floor today, as well as the bipartisan group of cosponsors for their support.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2938, the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Clarification Act, seeks to prevent Las Vegas-style casino gambling in the Phoenix metropolitan area on lands purchased by the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Mr. Speaker, the Tohono O'odham Nation has tried to manipulate the
Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Clarification Act of 1986 to acquire lands for gambling which are more than 100 miles from the Tohono O'odham's existing reservation. This ``reservation shopping'' for casino gambling purposes is contrary to the express and public commitments that the Tohono O'odham made between 2000 and 2002 to the other 16 Indian tribes in Arizona, the State, and the voters of Arizona when it openly and definitively supported passage of Proposition 202, a State referendum to limit casino gambling in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Indeed, while the Tohono O'odham was in negotiations with the other tribes to craft a gaming compact agreement, they were simultaneously in the process of covertly purchasing attractive land in the Phoenix metropolitan area for casino gambling purchases. Thus, the bipartisan cosponsors of H.R. 2938 are simply trying to keep the Tohono O'odham Nation to its publicly stated commitment not to engage in casino gambling in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Mr. Speaker, during the subcommittee hearing on this bill, witnesses made it clear that there is a problem and a serious threat to existing gaming structure in Arizona if the Tohono O'odham Nation is able to develop a Las Vegas-style casino in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The passage of H.R. 2938 will prevent an ominous precedent that could lead to an expansion of off-reservation casinos and dangerous changes to the complexion of tribal gaming in the other States across the country in which Indian tribes can use front companies to buy up land and declare it part of their sovereign reservation for gaming purposes.

Additionally, Mr. Speaker, even if the casino weren't in violation of Federal law--which it is--but if it weren't, claims that the operation would create jobs and benefit the economy of the surrounding area are woefully misinformed at best and shamefully dishonest at worst. The most frequently cited job creation numbers that have been thrown about during this debate come almost without exception from a study commissioned by the Tohono O'odham tribe themselves. The study was conducted by the Spectrum Gaming Group. Tellingly, multiple organizations asked the tribe to release the data and the methodology supporting this so-called ``study,'' which was released roughly 3 years ago. To this day, the tribe continuously to steadfastly refuse. In other words, the tribes released a slew of numbers extolling the supposed amazing economic benefits of their casino, then refused to tell anybody how they came up with the numbers.

Far from economically benefiting the West Valley, one recent well documented study found that casino operations would ultimately provide $172,500 of revenue annually for the city of Glendale--keep in mind the surrounding areas would not benefit from the normal sales taxes, bed taxes, and property taxes because the casino, being on tribal land, would be exempt from all three. Meanwhile, Glendale estimates an added cost of $3.6 million per year just for the additional cost of public safety services necessary to such a large operation. Of course, it should always be remembered, Mr. Speaker, that casino revenues are primarily comprised of gambling losses that would otherwise have found their way into the economy in more productive sectors.

Mr. Speaker, my bill would not seek to take any lands away from Tohono O'odham. Consistent with the intent of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, my bill merely prevents the Tohono O'odham from building a gambling casino on certain lands, as it previously agreed it would never do.

I respectfully ask my colleagues to join me and the members of Arizona's delegation in supporting this bill.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, I can say that this is somewhat difficult for me because I have a rule about laws that are being passed in Members' districts, and I usually support. Mr. Franks represents that district.

And I will say, Mr. Grijalva has made some statements. I would suggest Congress makes laws, and Congress can remake laws. Lawsuits, that's a scare tactic. They can sue all they want. One of the problems we have in America today is we have too many lawyers, so you can sue anything and anybody, anytime, anywhere.

This is a battle about a State and a large group of American Natives that reached an agreement. Mr. Gosar said this very clearly. He was there, and they reached an agreement and they are signatories. We had a hearing on this legislation. We had a quite intensive hearing, and that was brought up. And, of course, they can cite all the arguments they want, but they also understand that when a State is involved under Native gaming laws, which I and Mr. Udall sponsored, the State had to be directly involved; otherwise, you wouldn't have gambling anyplace in Arizona because the State would not have agreed to that if there hadn't been an agreement between all of the tribes, there would be no more than was established in the compact. And I think we have to consider the State's belief in this because that does affect the State. They probably wouldn't have any gambling at all.

This money from those five existing casinos is shared, even by the tribe requesting this casino outside their territory where they have their own casinos, they want it in the Phoenix area, and we all know that. This is about money. There's no doubt about that. But what concerns me the most is the compact. When I listen to this, when you make an agreement and you're a tribe and you agree to something, don't try to go around and change that later on by asking some lawyers. We talk about finances and where the finances are coming from. We can find that out, too, later on.

So with the understanding that this is an Arizona battle, but as chairman, I have to listen to both sides, and right now I come down on the side that Arizona, the State of, has an agreement, and we ought to live by it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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