Kansas sues over gaming land determination for Quapaw Tribe

The Downstream Casino Resort. Photo from Facebook

The state of Kansas sued the National Indian Gaming Commission on Monday over a land determination that benefits the Quapaw Tribe.

The tribe operates the Downstream Casino Resort on properties in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Gaming is currently restricted to a parcel of trust land on the Oklahoma side of the facility.

The tribe, however, is planning to spend $15 million to expand gaming into Kansas. The project was announced after the NIGC determined that the 124-acre Kansas portion can be used for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Generally, land acquired after 1988 can't be used for gaming. The Bureau of Indian Affairs placed the Kansas portion in trust in 2012.

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

But the NIGC determined that the Quapaws qualify for an exception in Section 20 of IGRA that applies to a tribe's "last recognized reservation" outside of Oklahoma. In the lawsuit filed yesterday, the state of Kansas challenges that conclusion and claims the tribe initially agreed not to use the land for gaming.

"The undisputed facts of record are that less than a year after the tract in question was taken into trust for nongaming purposes by the BIA, as applied for by the tribe, the tribe turned around and applied to the NIGC to game on the land," the complaint, which was posted by Turtle Talk, states.

Even though the Quapaws can engage in gaming on the Kansas land as a result of the NIGC opinion, the tribe lacks a Class III gaming compact with the state. The filing of the lawsuit on behalf of the state indicates the tribe will face political hurdles if it tries to negotiate an agreement. The tribe could still engage in Class II gaming on the site.

Separately, the tribe is pursuing a commercial casino at a site about 40 miles from Downstream. The Quapaws are among three applicants for the license -- one dropped out on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Relevant Documents:
NIGC Indian Land Opinion (November 2014)

Related Stories:
Quapaw Tribe proposes $110M 'Emerald City' casino in Kansas (02/24)
Quapaw Tribe slams casino expansion opposition as 'anti-Indian' (02/11)
County opposes expansion of Quapaw Tribe casino into Kansas (02/10)
Kansas attorney general questions Quapaw Tribe's gaming plans (12/10)
Quapaw Tribe to expand gaming facility into ancestral territory (12/05)

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