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Quapaw Tribe to expand gaming facility into ancestral territory

Filed Under: Compacts | Land Acquisitions | NIGC | Openings and Closings
More on: igra, kansas, missouri, oklahoma, quapaw, section 20

The Downstream Casino Resort. Photo from Facebook

UPDATE: The Indian land opinion, courtesy of the Quapaw Tribe, is now linked to the article.

The Quapaw Tribe announced a $15 million expansion of its flagship gaming facility today after winning a landmark legal opinion from the Obama administration.

The Downstream Casino Resort is located in three states -- Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Gaming is currently restricted to the Oklahoma portion because only that part of the tribe's land base is in trust.

That will be changing, however, thanks to an Indian land opinion from the National Indian Gaming Commission. The determination recognizes that the Kansas portion was part of the tribe's last recognized reservation, Chairman John Berrey said today.

"This federal opinion means that we can now go for it, and we will be the first to build and operate a casino in Southeast Kansas," Berrey said.

The opinion appears to be unprecedented. According to the NIGC's website, no other tribe has won a favorable determination to engage in gaming on land that was part of its last recognized reservation in the history of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Generally, IGRA bars gaming on lands acquired after 1988. But the Quapaws qualify for an exception in Section 20 of the law that comes into play when "such lands are located in a state other than Oklahoma and are within the Indian tribe's last recognized reservation within the state or states within which such Indian tribe is presently located."

According to the NIGC opinion, the tribe acquired the Kansas portion in trust in 2012. It is located within the boundaries of a historic reservation known as the "Quapaw Strip."

Two other Oklahoma tribes tried to qualify for the same exception but the NIGC didn't accept their arguments. In one of those cases, though, the Wyandotte Nation was able to open a casino in Kansas under a land claim exception in IGRA.

"We are extremely pleased by the NIGC ruling," Berrey said

Artist's rendering shows the planned expansion at the Downstream Casino Resort. Image from Quapaw Tribe

The Quapaw Tribe will be adding 40,000 square-feet to its facility so the casino will now cross the Oklahoma-Kansas border. The new two-level structure will feature 162 gaming machines, a cigar lounge and a club.

The tribe will need to negotiate a Class III gaming compact with Kansas. Currently, four other tribes have compacts with the state.

"We will seek a state compact on the same terms as other federally recognized tribes with gameable land in Kansas, but we're commencing work immediately and we plan to be open for business in 2015," Berrey said.

Separately, the tribe said it plans to pursue a commercial casino at a site about 40 miles away from Downstream. The application is due December 19.

Related Stories:
Quapaw Tribe faces even more competition for casino in Kansas (11/25)

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