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Desert Diamond Casino in the West Valley to begin massive expansion by year's end

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Desert Diamond Casino in the West Valley to begin massive expansion by year's end
CLOSEDesert Diamond Casino in the West Valley to begin massive expansion by year's end

Sneak peek at Desert Diamond Casino West Valley. Here's a look inside the new gambling facility near Glendale.

Six weeks after reaching a settlement with the state, the Tohono O'odham Gaming Enterprise announced it will begin construction of its long-planned resort and casino by the end of the year.

The project faced multiple legal challenges after leaders of the southern Arizona tribe announced they would build the resort and casino near Glendale's sports and entertainment district in 2009. 

The tribe eventually opened a limited version of Desert Diamond Casino West Valley in 2015. Now, work will get underway on a 1 million-square-foot resort with five restaurants, bars and a full-scale casino that will be more than double the size of the current facility.

"This has been a long time coming, and we will continue to work with the community to ensure that construction proceeds smoothly," said Andy Asselin, CEO of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, in a written statement on June 30.

The $400 million development will take about 20 months to construct, according to tribal officials. The current casino will remain open during construction.

This is the Desert Diamond Casino-West Valley, slated 3 of 7
This is the Desert Diamond Casino-West Valley, slated 4 of 7
This is the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley, slated 5 of 7
This is the Desert Diamond Casino-West Valley, slated 6 of 7
This is the Desert Diamond Casino-West Valley, slated 7 of 7

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How different is the casino?

The resort will go up north of the current casino, which the tribe will use as a warehouse once construction is complete.

The casino will cover 75,000 square feet, compared with the current facility's 35,000 square feet. And it will offer table games such as blackjack and poker, as well as Las Vegas-style slot machines. 

Tohono O'odham spokesman Matt Smith said there are no plans to add table games to the current casino.

The tribe opened the Class 2 casino with bingo-style slot machines and no table games because the state denied a Class 3 gaming license. The state also denied the casino a liquor license. 

The tribe filed a lawsuit against Arizona for denying a higher-level gaming license and the state responded with several counterclaims.

The two entities reached a settlement in May, allowing the tribe to move forward with the project as long as the tribe didn't build more casinos in the Phoenix area in the foreseeable future. 

Late 1970s and early 1980s | About 10,000 acres of 3 of 35
1986 | Congress passes a law allowing the Tohono O'odham 4 of 35
1988 | The federal government enacts the Indian Gaming 5 of 35
2002 | Voters approve a compact between Arizona and 6 of 352003 | Rainier Resources LLC begins buying county island 7 of 352009 | Tohono O'odham announces plans to build a casino 8 of 35May 2009 | The Western Regional Office of the Bureau 9 of 35July 2010 | Department of the Interior agrees to designate 10 of 35November 2010 | Gila River Indian Community sues Interior, 11 of 35Feb. 1, 2011 | Gov. Jan Brewer signs legislation to 12 of 35Feb. 14, 2011 | Arizona, along with the Gila River 13 of 35March 2011 through July 2011 | A federal judge largely 14 of 352012 | U.S. House of Representatives passes a bill, 15 of 35May 2013 | 9th Circuit court asks Interior to reissue 16 of 359th Circuit Court of Appeals 17 of 35November 2013 | U.S. House passes legislation, again 18 of 35March 2014 |  9th Circuit agrees to postpone the compact 19 of 35March 2014 | Glendale opens negotiations with the Tohono 20 of 35May 27, 2014 | The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the 21 of 35July 3, 2014 | The U.S. Department of the Interior 22 of 35July 15, 2014 | In a major shift, a divided Glendale 23 of 35July 28, 2014 | U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake 24 of 35Aug. 28, 2014 | The Tohono O'odham Nation holds a groundbreaking 25 of 35December 2014 | Grading and site preparation begins. 26 of 35January 2015 | Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and 27 of 35February 2015 | Steel framing begins. 28 of 35April 2015 | Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona Attorney General 29 of 35June 22, 2015 | The Tohono O'odham Nation files a lawsuit 30 of 35Sept. 18, 2015 | Judge David Campbell of the U.S. District 31 of 35Nov. 9, 2015  | A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. 32 of 35Nov. 16, 2015 | The U.S. House rejects quick passage 33 of 35Dec. 20, 2015 | The Desert Diamond Casino Diamond Desert 34 of 35March 29, 2016 | In a strongly worded ruling, the 9th 35 of 35

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The battle for blackjack

Getting a casino with blackjack and beer was born out of a long battle between the Tohono O'odham Nation and opponents, which at times have included Glendale, other tribes and the state. 

Tribal leaders believed they had the right to open a casino on West Valley land that it had purchased based on a settlement with the federal government to replace land that was flooded by a government-installed dam on the Gila River. The tribe purchased the land in 2003, a year after Arizona voters approved a gaming compact that state officials said would prohibit new casinos in the Valley. The state accused the tribe of fraud.  

In early 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that the West Valley casino complied with federal law and the gaming compact. However, the case was still working its way through federal court when the state and tribe reached a settlement. 

Republic reporter Jessica Boehm contributed to this article.

READ MORE:

What you need to know about the West Valley casino settlement

Arizona, tribe strike deal for blackjack, other table games at West Valley casino

Casino feud: Secret meetings, trashed notes

Timeline of new Tohono O'odham Nation casino

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Talking Stick is the premier casino resort in metro 4 of 43
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