What Arizona’s massive gambling expansion means for Ducey, taxpayers and tribes

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents PGA Tour)

By Maria Polletta | Arizona Republic

In 1993, public debate over the scope of tribal gambling in Arizona was fraught with controversy, criticism and innuendo.

Conservative politicians had raised the specter of “unscrupulous operators” and ties to organized crime. Mayors were fretting over “social fallout” and the need to protect the “character of our great state.” Residents resisted casinos in metropolitan areas, while religious leaders charged Arizona officials with engaging in “sloppy diplomacy.”

And that was an improvement in the tenor of the debate.

The year before, the FBI attempted to seize slot machines at five tribal casinos operating without a state compact. The raid prompted Yavapai Nation members to blockade agents inside Fort McDowell casino for hours, a protest that ultimately forced then-Gov. Fife Symington to the negotiating table.

Contrast those tensions with the scene at the Heard Museum last Thursday, when Gov. Doug Ducey, seated alongside beaming leaders representing 16 tribal nations, signed new compacts authorizing the type of broad gaming expansion many Arizonans believed would destroy Arizona’s moral fabric 30 years ago.

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