Pascua Yaqui Tribe Announces New Casino After Feds Expand Land Trust

Written By J.R. Duren on January 9, 2023
A new tribal casino is coming to Tucson, Arizona

2023 is going to be a good year for the Pascua Yaqui. The Arizona-based tribe has plans to build a new casino in Arizona after a law signed by President Joe Biden granted the tribe around 30 acres of land.

The tribe will build the casino at a Tucscon intersection that’s home to an abandoned movie theater. Kim Van Amburg, CEO of the tribe’s Casino Del Sol, told local media the land is a “game-changer” for the Pascua Yaqui:

“It means jobs, not just for tribal members in that area, but for other Tucsonans who would like to have a job close to central Tucson. I think from an economic development and what that intersection looks like, I think it’s going to be a beautiful improvement.”

Law makes Pascua Yaqui land eligible for building a casino

The Biden-signed legislation is called the “Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act.” It put into a trust a chunk of land just north of downtown Tucson.

“Put into trust” is the key phrase, because it allows the tribe to use the land for gaming. And, as Tucson gaming goes, the tribe’s land is in an excellent location.

It’s just east of Interstate 10, which means it can capture traffic between Phoenix and Tucson. Additionally, Arizona traffic records show that the area where the casino will be is a high-traffic area.

The I-10 exit for the area is one of just a handful of exits to see more than 180,000 vehicles per day.

Additionally, the Arizona casino will have high visibility. Anyone going northbound on the I-10 will see the casino off to the right just before the Grant Rd. exit.

Rep. Raul Grijalva sponsored the act. In the early stages of the law’s movement through Congress, Pascua Yaqui Chairman Peter Yucupicio emphasized how it would change the fortunes of the tribe.

“We applaud Congress for their steadfast support of the Tribe’s efforts to create jobs, build homes, and continue to improve the welfare of our people and the people of Tucson during a pandemic,” he said.

The new Arizona casino has a huge location advantage

There are four casinos in the Tucson area:

  1. Casino Del Sol (Pascua Yaqui)
  2. Casino of the Sun (Pascua Yaqui)
  3. Desert Diamond Casino Sahaurita (San Xavier)
  4. Desert Diamond Casino Tucson (San Xavier)

All four casinos are located within reservations, and all four are located around 15 minutes or more from downtown Tucson. Also, all of the casinos are located south of the city.

The Pascua Yaqui’s casino will be the only one on the city’s north side. As a result, the tribe will have two advantages over the San Xavier tribe.

First, it will have more casinos than the San Xavier tribe: three to two. Second, it will have access to a previously untapped part of the city.

Additionally, the northside casino will be the Pascua Yaqui’s first freeway-adjacent property. The property will have high visibility being so close to the I-10. Plus, it will, in theory, neutralize the benefit the San Xavier tribe has with its freeway-adjacent Sahuarita casino.

Beyond the economic advantages, Pascua Yaqui’s chairman believes the entire Tucson community will benefit. Yucupicio told local media:

“For us, when you start looking at taking care and beautifying the whole area there of the city of Tucson, I think it will be a beautiful thing to watch and see how we evolve.”

The tribe should break ground on the new casino within the next 12-18 months.

Photo by PlayUSA
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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