Kansas, NIGC Battle Over Quapaws

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt recently amended a lawsuit aimed at preventing the Quapaw tribe from extending gaming at its Downstream Casino in Oklahoma to the parking lot in Kansas. The National Indian Gaming Commission filed a brief in federal court stating the tribe can do whatever it wants with its Kansas trust land.

After the Quapaw Tribe announced a million expansion of its Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, Oklahoma into its parking lot located in Kansas, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt sued the tribe and its leaders, as well as the National Indian Gaming Commission. Late last year the NIGC declared since the Kansas property was within the tribe’s former reservation in that state, the Kansas property could be used for gaming under Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Currently Class III gaming is limited to the Oklahoma portion of the tribe’s trust land, since that was the only area in trust when the casino opened in 2008. In 2012 the Bureau of Indian Affairs placed the 124-acre Kansas portion in trust.

The Quapaws said they want to build a two-level structure with 162 gaming machines, cigar lounge and club. Class III gaming would require a compact with the state of Kansas–unlikely because of the pending lawsuit. However, in regard to that lawsuit, on May 26 the NIGC filed a 42-page legal brief in U.S. District Court in Topeka, stating the Quapaws’ plans for the land “are legally irrelevant” to the criteria included in federal law regulating gambling on Indian land. Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for Kansas, wrote the tribe “could have proceeded with any course of action on its trust land in Kansas.”

However, Schmidt recently filed an amended version of his lawsuit against the NIGC and governmental and tribal officials. In the amended lawsuit, Schmidt said the NIGC incorrectly applied federal law “depriving the State of Kansas of the governor’s statutory right to concur in and to veto gaming.” In response, Grissom stated nothing in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or Department of Interior regulations supports Schmidt’s argument that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has statutory authority in the matter.

In a recent opinion piece, Quapaw Chairman John Berrey wrote, “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.”

Berrey was served with the amended lawsuit papers on May 29 while attending a meeting of the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board in Topeka. The board heard presentations from the three competitors who want to build a casino in the state’s Southeast Gaming Zone—which likely would impact the Downstream.