Arbitrator To Settle Oklahoma County-Tribe Dispute

An arbitrator will determine if Sunday sales of high-point alcoholic beverages are allowed at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The state Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission has said the sales are illegal under Potawatomi County law.

The Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission has called in an arbitrator to determine if the Citizen Potawatomi Nation can sell high-percentage alcoholic beverages at its Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee. Currently under Potawatomi County law restaurants can sell low-point beer on Sundays, but stronger alcoholic beverages may not be sold from 2 a.m. to midnight. The casino has been selling alcoholic drinks on Sundays since it opened in 2006.

Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett said county regulations do not apply because the casino is on sovereign tribal land. In September, an administrative law judge for the ABLE Commission ruled against the tribe, which is appealing the decision. Barrett said, “The compact expressly states that the sale and service of alcoholic beverages will be in compliance with state, federal and tribal law, which we have complied with since day one. This attempt to force us to comply with the county liquor law is a direct violation of our agreement,” he said.

The dispute began after an undercover ABLE agent ticketed the tribe on November 11, 2012 for selling drinks on Sunday. The maximum penalty for the violation is of a five-day license suspension and a $250 fine.

Voters could have ended the argument on November 4 if they had approved a county-wide proposition allowing sales of alcoholic drinks on Sundays. However, of the 13,939 ballots cast, 50.7 percent were against the measure.

State Assistant Attorney General Nikki Nickols, representing ABLE, said if one or both parties are not satisfied with the arbitrator’s decision, they can file a complaint in federal court.