The United Keetoowah Band is planning to renovate an existing building at 730 S. 9th. in Enid, Oklahoma, and turn it into a casino. Image: Google Maps

United Keetoowah Band cites local support for casino bid

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians announced the results of two polls which show support for a proposed casino in Oklahoma.

According to a recent SoonerPoll, 60 percent of residents in Enid expressed support for the project. Separately, a less scientific poll conducted online by The Enid News & Eagle indicated around the same level of support, the tribe said on Friday.

The announcement came after tribal representatives presented the proposal to the city council at a special study session on Tuesday. Initial plans call for a gaming facility, to be followed by other potential developments, such as a movie theater and bowling alley.

“The 20,000 square-foot casino would also satisfy a projected 930,000 gamers in the market who would not have to travel outside the area to play and take their money elsewhere,” Randall Hendrix, the executive director of the UKB Corporate Board, said on Friday.

At the session earlier this week, the tribe confirmed that it will be pursuing the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, The Enid News & Eagle reported. That means the state governor's approval would be required, in addition to approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"The other important process, or step in the process, is that the governor of Oklahoma has to agree that this land can be taken into trust for gaming purposes," UKB Attorney General Klint A. Cowan said at the meeting, the paper reported. "If the governor doesn't consent, then it won't happen."

Generally, two-part determination applications are controversial and time-consuming at the state level. But that hasn't always been the case in Oklahoma, where the Kaw Nation and the Shawnee Tribe easily won the governor's support for their casinos.

In both situations, the projects went through an environmental review. But the Shawnees, the most recent tribe to go through the project, only had to prepare an environmental assessment, which isn't as complex as the environmental impact statements that have been seen for other two-part determinations in Indian Country.

As a result, the timeline was significantly shorter for the tribe. It took the Shawnees a little over a year to go from an environmental assessment to favorable decisions from both the BIA and the state governor.

Still, the tribe's land-into-trust application, a critical piece of the project, was held up by the Trump administration for a year for unexplained reasons. Publicly, officials would only say they were continuing to review the application.

The Kaw Nation's project took a lot longer to secure federal approval. But the governor signed off quickly.

If the United Keetoowah Band succeeds with its two-part determination and land-into-trust application, the tribe hopes to open the casino by 2020. It would go into a renovated building on the east side of Enid at 730 S. 9th.

The tribe is seeking a letter of support from the city to submit with the casino application.

Read More on the Story
Tribe: Casino could happen with, without city of Enid approval (The Enid News & Eagle September 19, 2018)

An Opinion
EDITORIAL: Benefits too big a gamble for Enid gaming The Enid News & Eagle September 20, 2018)

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