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O’odham poll suggests backing for possible Glendale-area casino

A casino proposed near Glendale’s sports and entertainment district has wide support among Maricopa County voters, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Tohono O’odham Nation, which is seeking to build the complex.

Nearly three in four respondents said the $600 million resort and casino would be “a good project for the West Valley,” according to the executive summary on the research.

The study was conducted by Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center Inc. The tribe did not immediately release the full report, including interview questions and detailed methodology.

The Tohono O’odham Nation stunned Glendale officials and opponents of casino gambling when it announced in January its plans for the casino on 134 acres of land owned by the tribe at 91st and Northern avenues.

City officials have expressed concerns the 24/7 casino could cost the city for infrastructure, alter plans to widen nearby Northern Parkway into a high-speed superstreet and hamper business at hotels and restaurants in the sports and entertainment district just south of the planned casino.

Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. has countered that the facility would create 6,000 construction jobs and 3,000 jobs within the casino and resort and make a local economic impact of $300 million.

Four other tribes with casinos have come out in opposition, saying the Tohono O’odham plan would amount to an urban casino, possibly voiding the tribes’ compact with Arizona allowing gambling operations.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs has said the city would work with the tribe to make the most of the 1.2 million visitors expected each year.

The tribe is awaiting word on its federal application to deem the unincorporated Maricopa County land a reservation, which would pave the way for the state’s largest casino.

Meanwhile, Norris and other tribal leaders have been working to build support throughout the Valley.

The recent study suggests residents are “eager (for the tribe) to build upon the strong sports and entertainment district in place,” Norris said in a statement.

Pollsters conducted 601 interviews in Maricopa County between March 12 and 16, with 401 voters in the West Valley and 200 in the East Valley.

The margin of error was between 5 percent and 7.1 percent, depending on the side of the Valley.

The tribe highlighted findings such as:

• Half of respondents indicated they were familiar with the project, even though the plan was announced less than two months ago.

• Two-thirds said they believed the Tohono O’odham would build a quality facility and use the revenue effectively.

• Sixty-six percent said the resort would complement the existing entertainment and sports district in Glendale.

• Nine in 10 either patronize tribal gaming facilities or support having them available as an entertainment option.

Support for the casino cut across demographic lines, including gender, age, income and political affiliation. Both East and West Valley residents backed the casino almost equally, with 71 percent support on the east side of Interstate 17 and 74 percent on the west.

Glendale Councilwoman Joyce Clark, however, was skeptical of the results. “You can do a poll and get any results you want depending on the way you ask the questions,” Clark said.

She also said the margin of error seemed high and quibbled with the poll being Valley-wide.

“If they wanted a meaningful poll, it should have been Glendale residents, specifically those people who live near the proposed site,” Clark said.

Norris responded by saying he didn’t want to debate “whether the poll should have been in this neighborhood or that neighborhood.”

The purpose of the survey was “to get a sense for what the entire area’s sentiment was for this project,” he said.

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