Arizona Working on Plans to Build First Casinos in Tuscon

Arizona Working on Plans to Build First Casinos in Tuscon
By Jake Perper

Potential plans are underway to add a casino on tribal land in Tucson, Arizona.

Located near Grant Road and Interstate 10, the 14.38-acre plot of land is owned by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The space was used as a theater complex by Century Park 16 until it shut down eight years ago. The tribe bought the property for $4.65 million in 2011.

Legal obstacles remain for further development of this Tucson casino -- for starters, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe will have to agree to build this new casino.

According to ABC 15 Arizona report, the Pascua Yaqui Council is working on an intergovernmental agreement in which the city could assist in pinpointing the plot of land into a federal trust.

Furthermore, this land would become part of the Pascua Yaqui Reservation if it does go into the trust.

Positive Notes Towards a Future Casino in Tucson

A recent letter -- originally written to a local newspaper then forward to news station KGUN9 -- from Tribe Chairman Robert Valencia said a new casino is one of “a number of potential economic development projects for property” that the tribe is monitoring closely.

This could be a huge breakthrough considering that Arizona as a whole is mainly in favor of the revenue that comes from casino gambling. The state has 20 gambling venues already so this possible location in Tucson is certainly not farfetched.

As of now, Arizona is still mulling over sports gambling. SB 1158, proposed this year, would give the Native American tribes in the state the power to legally offer sports gambling odds on its casino properties. The bill didn't really get off the ground in 2019 but Arizona could see sports betting being legalized by some point next year.

Tuscon City and Tribe Partnership

On Tuesday, the possible addition of a casino was taken up during the overall study session at a City Council meeting. This is what Assistant City Manager Albert Elias told regarding the topic:

"There won’t be a vote, but an opportunity to learn more. From a land-use point of view, it’s a great location and a very valuable piece of real estate."

This pitched agreement would give Tucson a share of the revenue from the casino’s earnings and the staff in place in the city have already pushed for its approval, per

The tribe and city would have a true revenue sharing relationship if this land does become a casino on the Pacqua Yaqui reservation.

According to, the Pacqua Yaqui tribe would agree to pay the city specific transaction privilege taxes based on revenue:

  • Retail, including liquor — 2.6%
  • Sale of prepared food, including liquor — 2%
  • Hotel rental — 6% plus $4 per room per 24-hour period
  • Amusement, such as movie theaters, video games or concerts — 2%
  • Gross proceeds of construction of new building — 2%
  • Rental to unrelated parties — 2%

Now the waiting period begins.

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Jake Perper covers casino news for A veteran of more than a decade of sports writing, he has covered the Chicago Bears for the Bears Backer blog, and his stories have also appeared on, The Tampa Tribune, The Naples Daily News and Bleacher Report. He is also the leas scout for Prep Hoops Florida, based in Tampa.

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