On Monday, the House quietly passed legislation that would give the tiny Pascua Yaqui Tribe in southern Arizona a tract of land with a specific purpose: to be the home of a brand new, par 72 championship, 18-hole golf course, designed in part by well-known golfer Jack Nicklaus.
The land currently belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and sits unused, despite being surrounded on all sides by the tribe's reservation, which has close to 3,500 members. The golf course would be the latest addition to a sprawling resort on the reservation that includes a casino, hotel, amphitheater, spa and conference center, and would include a "Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf" with a 375-yard-long driving range and 2,000 square-foot climate-controlled educational facility.
"This is important to the tribe, so it's important to the office," says Chris Kaumo, senior policy advisor to Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who introduced the bill, which is now headed to the Senate. "There's been a lot of important economic development and the golf course would add to that. It brings in out-of-town clientele. It helps the tribe diversify. Gaming isn't always going to be around."
In 2011, Native American tribes ran 460 gambling operations across the U.S., which brought in annual revenues of $27 billion.