Quapaw Tribe promises fight to protect casino rights in Kansas

Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey speaks at a news conference on March 18, 2015. Photo by Tim Spears / Twitter

The Quapaw Tribe withdrew from a commercial casino project in Kansas in order to concentrate on a new battle affecting its gaming rights.

Chairman John Berrey announced the withdrawal at a news conference on Wednesday. He said the tribe didn't want the emerging fight to taint the $110 million Emerald City Casino proposal in the southeast part of the state.

"The state of Kansas has shown us what they think of us," Berrey said. "So in order to help our partner in the Emerald City Casino proposal, Mr. Phil Ruffin, we felt it would be best if we were no longer involved."

KOAM-TV: Quapaw's Downstream Casino Cites Kansas' Hostile Environment, Lawsuit, For Withdrawing From Proposal

Berrey said the state has created a "hostile and adversarial environment" by filing a lawsuit against the National Indian Gaming Commission. He vowed to defend the tribe's right to expand the Downstream Casino Resort onto ancestral territory in Kansas.

"We will instead focus our energy on expanding Downstream Casino Resort across the Kansas state line where we have every right to engage in fair competition with the other casinos of the region," Berrey said.

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

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

But after winning a favorable ruling from the NIGC, the tribe announced a $15 million expansion onto the Kansas portion. Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), however, is claiming that the land can't be used for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs placed the 124-acre Kansas site in trust in 2012. Generally, land acquired after 1988 can't be used for gaming.

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. The land in question was part of the Quapaw Strip reservation in Kansas.

"Bringing this litigation was not only a mean thing to do, and wrong on its face, but it seeks to cheat the citizens of southeast Kansas out of additional revenue that they deserve," Berrey said. "We intend to fight for our rights and for the Cherokee County Kansas citizens' best interests."

Even though the land is in trust, the tribe would still need a Class III gaming compact with Kansas. Berrey said Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is refusing negotiate.

"It seems he wanted to pretend that we don't exist down here. Now he wants to sue us?" Berrey said.

Get the Story:
Downstream pulls out of casino proposal (The Joplin Globe 3/19)
Quapaw Tribe pulls out of Camptown joint venture (The Pittsburg Morning Sun 3/19)
Quapaw Tribe bows out of casino proposal (The Cherokee County News-Advocate 3/19)
Quapaw Tribe Walks Out of Emerald City Casino Project (Casino News Daily 3/19)
Quapaw Withdraws Partnership From Casino Proposal (KOAM 3/18)
Quapaw Withdraws From Proposed Frontenac Casino (KZRG 3/18)
Downstream Withdraws from Partnership for Kansas Casino Proposal (Four States Homepage 3/18)

Relevant Documents:
NIGC Indian Land Opinion (November 2014)

Related Stories
Kansas sues over gaming land determination for Quapaw Tribe (03/10)
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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