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Mixed reaction over Glendale-area casino

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PHOENIX (AP) – Some reacted with surprise, others are expressing caution and still others can’t wait after it was announced a tribal casino was being planned for the Glendale area near Cardinals’ stadium.

Glendale officials said the announcement that the Tohono O’odham Nation wants to build a “Las Vegas-style” resort and casino near the city’s sports and entertainment district caught them by surprise since the city doesn’t have an Indian reservation nearby.

The tribe hopes to rectify that by filing an application with the BIA to change a 135-acre county island north of the stadium into a federal land-in-trust, which would pave the way for a casino.

Backers said it’s a good bet because it will bring in an estimated 6,200 construction jobs to build the $607 million facility.

Once the doors open, possibly as early as 2012, the 600-room resort and casino would employ about 3,000 people.

A study completed for the tribe projects a $320 million annual boost to the state’s economy.

Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett, whose city lies on the north side of project, called it an economic boon. “This is a very large-scale entertainment tourism draw that will operate 24/7.”

Glendale City Manager Ed Beasley said his staff was going over the information they received from the tribe. “Certain impacts and concerns were already identified,” he said, although he declined to elaborate.

Mayor Elaine Scruggs said she met with tribal leaders at their request and had “no idea what I was going to be told.”

Now, she and others will have to learn the intricacies of working with a sovereign nation.

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If successful, Scruggs said, then Glendale will work with the tribe to make the most of the 1.2 million visitors the resort and casino expects each year.

“If the Tohono O’odham Nation has the legal right to do this and the federal government approves the land, we must work with them to partner in the best way possible and benefit each other,” Scruggs said.

The tribe is exercising a federal law created in 1986 that allows the tribe to purchase replacement land in unincorporated areas and apply to have it designated as a reservation after the federal government’s Painted Rock Dam on the Gila River caused flooding in the Tohono O’odham’s Gila River community, rendering 9,880 acres unusable.

Ned Norris Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, said the reasons to buy in the Glendale area are obvious with the growth of its sports venues, hotels and amenities.

“Anyone that sees the magnificent job that Glendale has done, sees this as a prime opportunity to add to that entertainment district,” he said.

Not everyone is convinced a casino near Glendale is needed.

Carole Marx said she is concerned by potential traffic and crime problems near her home. “It’s way too close to residential.”

Resident Van DiCarlo viewed a casino as a way to draw visitors that would support Westgate City Center and its bars, restaurants and hotels.

Another resident, Donna Duggins, said it will bring jobs to the west side. “People need jobs right now, so if they have a way to bring jobs into the city and get the economy back where it needs to be then I am all for it.”

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