Quapaw Tribe still facing questions about casino in Arkansas

This robe from the 18th century depicts Quapaw villages in Arkansas, where the tribe lived before being forced to leave. Photo from Shonagon / Wikipedia

The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has no plans to open a casino on ancestral land in Arkansas but fears of one are stirring opposition.

Pulaski County is opposing the tribe's land-into-trust application for a site in Little Rock, the state capital. A letter sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs raises jurisdictional concerns.

"I'm the elected official over Pulaski County, and this parcel of land is in the boundaries of Pulaski County," Barry Hyde, the county judge, told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "I think that I have to resist any portion of my jurisdiction being removed from state and county jurisdiction. That's the long and short of it."

The tribe acquired 160 acres of its former reservation for a total of $1.37 million. The land sits near the Port of Little Rock, whose officials passed a resolution that says a casino is not consistent with existing uses.

"Throughout this process, the Quapaw Tribe has been very transparent and open, and has consulted extensively with local governments and the community, and this has not changed," Chairman John Berrey said in a statement to the paper. "We recognize that federal Indian law is complex and very difficult to understand."

Berrey has insisted that a casino is not in the works. But the tribe could still try to engage in gaming at the site sometime in the future.

The Downstream Casino Resort in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Photo from Facebook

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, generally, bars gaming on land placed in trust after 1988. But Section 20 of the law contains an exception that the tribe has used for a newly acquired site in Kansas.

The tribe plans to use the land to expand the Downstream Casino Resort into Kansas. The gaming portion is currently restricted to the Oklahoma portion of the facility because it's already in trust.

The NIGC has determined that the Kansas land can be used for gaming. The state is suing the agency and the tribe's leaders, including Chairman Berrey, in hopes of stopping the expansion.

Get the Story:
Against tribe's land bid, county tells U.S. agency (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 5/13)
Little Rock Port Authority Board Passes Land-Use Resolution (AP 5/11)
Cemetery meeting planned at casino (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 5/11)
Port authority OKs land-use resolution (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 5/9)

Relevant Documents:
NIGC Indian Land Opinion For Site in Kansas (November 2014)

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Quapaw Tribe did not include casino on land-into-trust request (03/26)
Quapaw Tribe insists a casino isn't focus of Arkansas land plan (3/25)
Quapaw Tribe faces opposition to potential casino in Arkansas (3/24)
Quapaw Tribe open to casino on historic homeland in Arkansas (3/23)
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