NIGC seeks dismissal of suit over Quapaw Tribe casino expansion

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

The National Indian Gaming Commission is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to stop the Quapaw Tribe from expanding its casino.

The tribe announced a $15 million expansion of the Downstream Casino Resort into Kansas after receiving a favorable land determination from the NIGC. The state responded by suing the agency, the tribe and its leaders.

Government attorneys, however, say the land determination was not a "final agency action" that can be challenged in court. They also argue that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not waive NIGC's immunity for the situation at hand.

"Here, plaintiffs do not challenge one of IGRA’s specified final actions, but instead seek judicial review of something different: a letter from NIGC’s Acting General Counsel to the tribe," government attorneys said in a brief posted by Turtle Talk.

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

Downstream is located on land in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Gaming is currently restricted to the Oklahoma portion since that was the only part that was in trust when the casino opened in 2008.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs eventually placed the 124-acre Kansas portion in trust in 2012. Since the property lies within the tribe's former reservation in that state, the NIGC letter said it could be used for gaming under Section 20 of IGRA.

The tribe has said it will use the newly acquired land for a two-level structure with 162 gaming machines, a cigar lounge and a club. Class III gaming would require a compact with the state of Kansas, something that's unlikely at this juncture due to the pending lawsuit.

A copy of the handwritten letter from Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) was filed in federal court by the state as part of the lawsuit.

"Brownback is suing me; my people, the Quapaw Tribe; the National Indian Gaming Commission (U.S. Department of Interior); and everyone else he can think of in a mean-spirited attempt to deny my tribe’s established right to expand our exemplary Downstream Casino Resort across the Oklahoma-Kansas line onto our Kansas federal-trust land," Chairman John Berrey wrote in an opinion for The Wichita Eagle last month.

Get the Story:
Federal attorneys seek to block lawsuit by Kansas official against tribal plans (The Joplin Globe 6/3)

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

Related Stories:
John Berrey: Governor in Kansas turns back on Quapaw Tribe (5/19)
Kansas seeks injunction to stop Quapaw Tribe gaming expansion (4/17)
Quapaw Tribe promises fight to protect casino rights in Kansas (03/19)
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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