Glendale, Gila River Indian Community Anti-Casino Campaign Hires Circulators to Gather Signatures in Opposition to West Valley Resort

Glendale officials are not ready to fold in what has become a high-stakes gamble to prevent the Tohono O'odham Nation from building a resort-style casino in the West Valley.

Neither is the Gila River Indian Community.

The duo's Keeping the Promise campaign is drumming up opposition to the West Valley Resort, which the Nation plans to build on land they own near 95th and Northern avenues.

The campaign hired professional signature-gatherers and is paying them a reported 75 cents for each name they can add to their petition.

Here's what people are asked to sign:

"We, the undersigned, support cohesive neighborhoods, thriving small business and quality schools -- neighborhoods free of traffic, crime and declining property values inevitably brought on by a gaming casino opening near homes, schools and businesses.

We support elected leaders like Governor Jan Brewer, Sen. John McCain, Sen. John Kyl, Rep. Trent Franks, Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and Attorney General Tom Horne, who, along with Indian communities statewide, have taken a stand against casinos in neighborhoods.

We believe casinos on traditional tribal lands -- away from neighborhoods, with revenues shared by the state -- are good for tribes and good for Arizona. We believe off-reservation casinos are wrong, and that Arizona is better off not becoming the next Las Vegas.

And we support babies, and believe they should have the right to grow and thrive, just like small businesses, and we believe that it is our God-given right to eat and enjoy apple pie."

Okay, we made up that last paragraph ... but the way the text is phrased, we think even the chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation would sign the slip.

The GRIC's spokesman said the petitions have been circulating for about three weeks and that they will continue to circulate for another month or two.

The spokesman said the name of the Nation or their West Valley project weren't mentioned  because the GRIC doesn't want to play into the Nation's spin.

"It's not a resort," the spokesman said. "It's a casino."

The Tohono O'odham Nation came out with a survey in March 2010 that questioned West Valley residents about their support for the West Valley Resort.

From that survey:

"When the project is described in detail to respondents, two-thirds (68%) express support, with one-fourth (24%) opposed and 8 percent undecided. Even among registered Republicans, where support is weakest, 60 percent feel it is a good project for the West Valley."

The Keeping the Promise campaign came out with its own survey that asked residents across Arizona whether they support new casinos in the state.

From that survey:

A statewide survey on casino gambling in Arizona ... asked: "Would you support or oppose a new Indian gaming casino in your community?" 55 percent of respondents reported that they would be opposed, with 41 percent voicing strong opposition.

Since the Tohono O'odham Nation unveiled its plans to build a casino in the West Valley in 2009, Glendale leaders and state politicians have spoken out in opposition. As in the petitions opponents are circulating, they cite crime, traffic, and declining property values should the casino open near Glendale neighborhoods.

Other casinos, including the GRIC's Lone Butte and the TO's Desert Diamond in Tucson, are near neighborhoods -- and appear to co-exist without the disastrous results suggested in the petition.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo

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