What happens if you file a claim against a casino in Arizona?

Valley casinos can be entertaining.

They have nice restaurants, flashy shows and plenty of ways to make or a lose a buck.

But what if you're injured in a casino?

The ABC15 Investigators looked into what happens if you file a claim against a casino.

Since casinos in Arizona are on Indian land, you deal with tribal insurance and tribal court systems.


Sharyn Nesbitt fell in a hole while at Fort McDowell casino near Beeline Highway and Shea Boulevard.

She broke three bones.

Sharyn says the hole was in a grassy area in the casino parking lot.

But she says the tribal insurance provider denied her claim.

A Fort McDowell spokesperson says "the matter was investigated. It was determined that the casino was not at fault. Therefore her claim was denied."

In the meantime, Sharyn says she lost job opportunities because of the injury.

With no money coming in, she says she lost a property to foreclosure and couldn't pay her medical bills.

Her next step was Fort McDowell Tribal court.

Sharyn says she relied on a list a list of authorized court representatives.

She says she hired two of them but says both missed a crucial lawsuit filing date.

A Fort McDowell spokesperson calls it just a referral list.

He says any attorney in good standing with their state bar can appear in their courts.

Court systems differ from tribe to tribe.

Anthony Callipari says he was at Casino Arizona off the Loop 101 near Scottsdale when he was injured.

He says he was hit in the head with a chip tray while dealers were changing shifts.

Anthony says it affected his hearing.

The incident happened eight years ago.

He says he ended up taking the tribe to court.

He had to do it at the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community court.

The tribe owns Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort Casino just down the road.


While attorneys are allowed in some Salt River courts, they are not allowed for most personal injury cases in civil court.

Instead, if Anthony wanted representation, he had to choose from a limited list of non-lawyers called advocates okayed by the tribe.

He says three of the people on the list were dead and four were out of state.

He ended up hiring several advocates, but says none has helped him with a settlement in court.

The ABC15 Investigators reviewed the latest Salt River advocate list.

We called each repeatedly.

We found disconnected phone numbers.

Some advocates told us it's too tough taking on the tribe.  

Out of 26 names on the list,  we could get hold of 10.

Four people said they might take on a personal injury case involving casinos.

One of them is Richard Perry.

He has a law degree, but not a license, so that he can practice in all tribal courts.

Perry has been taking tribal court cases for 22 years.

He says, overall, he believes the courts do a good job of providing justice.

But he says the advocate list is too limited and says the choices need to be increased.

He and other advocates also tell us injury insurance claims higher than $5000 are routinely rejected.

They also say while some judges are elected, others are appointed.

Perry says he does warn clients about having appointed judges making decisions in personal injury cases.

He claims a judgment may come down based on a judge's concern about keeping his or her employment as a judge.

In a statement to the ABC15 Investigators, the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian community says "advocates must pass a background check."

The community also says judges are elected and appointed as in American court systems and that attorneys can practice "in some instances."

But their rules say not in civil court.

They call their court and American court.


Anthony sees it differently and asked for help from numerous sources, including federal and state agencies.

He says no one could help him.

Rick Medina with the Arizona Department of Gaming says he can help people who have issues with casinos.

That's just part of his department's job.

He says he can only make sure tribes with casinos have injury claim and lawsuit procedures in place.

His department doesn't have jurisdiction to make sure all of those procedures are carried out.

The Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian tribe says Anthony threatened staff members and they would only say his case was dismissed.

If you have an issue with a casino claim, here is some help from the Department of Gaming and you can contact them through their website.

Email me if you've had an injury at a Valley casino and how it turned out.

Go to my Abc15 Facebook page and leave a comment.

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