Shawnee Tribe plans to start work soon on off-reservation casino

Artist's rendering of the proposed Golden Mesa Casino in Guymon, Oklahoma. Image: Shawnee Tribe Environmental Assessment

It's taken more than 16 years but the Shawnee Tribe finally has a place to call home in Oklahoma.

The tribe was restored to federal recognition by an act of Congress in 2000. But efforts to acquire a land base were thwarted until leaders looked far away for a potential casino.

The result is a 107-acre property in Guymon, more than 400 miles away from tribal headquarters, that will house the Golden Mesa Casino. Chief Ron Sparkman told The Miami News-Record that construction could begin soon.

“We plan on starting the project in 30 to 45 days,” Sparkman told the paper. The casino open nine to 12 months later, the paper said.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Secretary Ryan Zinke responds to concerns raised by Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) about casino for the Shawnee Tribe, starting about 32:04 into the audio

While the tribe has been seeking land for more than a decade, the specific site in Guymon wasn't announced until about two years ago. The Bureau of Indian Affairs released an environmental assessment late last year and then approved the project in early February.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) then quickly approved the casino. Her approval was required because the tribe pursued the project under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The seemingly fast-moving nature of the process was brought up last week when Secretary Ryan Zinke, the new leader of the Department of the Interior, made his first appearance on Capitol Hill since joining the Trump administration. He indicated that he's already heard about the casino.

"There's great inconsistency and, to date, the process is unclear to me," Zinke told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last Wednesday. "I'll get to the bottom of it."

Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) was the one who brought up the issue. He has previously expressed concerns that some tribes in certain areas of Oklahoma wait years for the BIA to approve their land-into-trust applications.

"To do it in less than two years -- it has been surprising to us," Lankford said, indicating he was concerned about the fairness of the process.

Read More on the Story:
Shawnee Tribe's panhandle casino gets Governor's stamp - Tribe acquires first trust land

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