Kansas AG files federal lawsuit to keep Oklahoma tribe from expanding casino across state line

Industries Associated Press

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the Quapaw Tribe in northeast Oklahoma from expanding a casino there across the state line.

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Schmidt's lawsuit comes as Kansas officials review three proposals for a state-owned casino in southeast Kansas, one of which would compete head-on with the tribe's Downstream Casino Resort. The tribal casino's opening in 2008 stymied development of a casino in Kansas.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Topeka, challenges a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission last year to authorize casino games on 124 acres in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas. The site is adjacent to the Downstream casino site in Oklahoma and was purchased by the tribe in 2006 for a parking lot.

The federal government put the Kansas land in trust for the tribe in 2012, and the commission in November declared that the site could be treated as reservation land and used for casino gambling under federal law. The tribe is planning a $15 million addition offering table games, such as roulette, not allowed in Oklahoma.

Schmidt's lawsuit argues that the commission acted arbitrarily and exceeded its legal authority. Schmidt also contends federal law gives Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback a veto over the tribe's expansion plans.

The Kansas attorney general also contends the tribe told the U.S. government that the land would be used only for a parking lot. Both Brownback and the Cherokee County Commission oppose the expansion.

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"We believe the tribe should be held to its word that the land would not be used for gaming, and the federal government should follow the law in allowing the state to have its voice heard on how the land will be used," Schmidt said in a statement Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the tribe did not return a telephone message Tuesday seeking comment. A spokesman for the federal commission said it had not seen the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Lottery is reviewing applications from potential developers of a lottery-owned casino authorized by a 2007 law. Legislators last year revived interest in such a project with a law dropping the minimum investment required to $50 million from $225 million.

The Downstream casino is part of a partnership proposing a casino north of Pittsburg, some 30 miles north of the tribal casino. A second proposed casino would be built south of Pittsburg.

The third proposed casino — and the most expensive at $145 million — would be built in the southeast corner of Cherokee County.

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