Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona eyeing third casino development after favorable land trust act

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona plans to build a third casino near West Grant Road and Intestate. The move follows federal approval of the Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act, otherwise known as H.R. 4881, which formally places the culturally significant land known as “Old Pascua” into trust for the tribe.

The tribe already owns and operates two casinos: Casino Del Sol and Casino of the Sun. A potential third casino is expected to create approximately 500 to 600 jobs and invigorate the intersection.

The “compact-designated area” of approximately 30 acres includes the area south of West Grant Road, east of Interstate 10, north of West Calle Adelanto, and west of North 15th Avenue in Tucson, according to the bipartisan-backed bill, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 27. 

Sacred and ceremonial grounds that have belonged to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe since 1921 include the adobe chapel at the west end of the Pascua Cultural Plaza as well as the abandoned Century Park 16 movie theater, a prospective location for the third casino.

Kimberly Van Amburg, chief executive officer of Casino Del Sol, said: “The department of the interior still needs to take the land into trust, a process that could take six to 12 months. To have a casino at Grant and I-10, close to central Tucson (and) a lot of people is going to be a game changer for the tribe and also a benefit to that intersection in terms of the vibrancy of it.”

Kimberly Van Amburg

Yaquis from many different communities visit the church to practice their faith and culture. Peter Yucupicio, Pascua Yaqui Chairman, commented: “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to continue working together, providing not only for Yaqui but for a lot of members that live in the west side or in Tucson to come to help us build their economic base.”

Attorney General Alfred Urbina of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe collaborated with the Tribal Council to create a gaming compact in line with the Indian Gaming Regulation Act of 1988. This agreement outlines how the state of Arizona and its indigenous tribes will cooperate in regard to Indian gaming inside the state. It also identifies how many table games, slot machines, or casinos that each tribe has.

Peter Yucupicio, Pascua Yaqui Chairman

Tribal members are hopeful that economic development will be forthcoming, with Urbina stating that the church places a high value on culture, language, and the preservation of the community.

It’s almost like a restoration or a renaissance, now that we have an opportunity to go back and protect some of our churches and communities and provide either job (or) housing,” Urbina concluded.