Kansas Lawsuit Opposing Quapaw Tribe Gaming Expansion Dismissed

Kansas Lawsuit Opposing Quapaw Tribe Gaming Expansion Dismissed
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A federal judge issued an order today dismissing litigation by the State of Kansas against the National Indian Gaming Commission and various officials of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma (the O-Gah-Pah) to attempt to prevent the Tribe from conducting gaming on its reservation land in Kansas.

United States District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree, of the federal court in Topeka, in a 38-page ruling dismissed Kansas’ claims against the NIGC and various federal officers and against three tribal governmental entities and 18 tribal elected officers, agency heads, and enterprise directors, most of whom had no authority for or involvement in gaming.

The State of Kansas filed the suit to attempt to challenge an advisory letter opinion issued by the NIGC ruling that the Quapaw Tribe’s reservation land in Kansas is eligible for gaming. The Tribe’s Indian land in Kansas is located within the Kansas portion of its historic reservation, which is within both of the present-day states of Kansas and Oklahoma. The land at issue is adjacent to the Tribe’s upscale Downstream Casino Resort in Oklahoma.

The court agreed with the federal government and the Quapaw Tribe that the state could not challenge the NIGC’s advisory opinion. The court also rejected the state’s challenge to the federal regulations that allow the Quapaw Tribe to conduct gaming on the land. Judge Crabtree dismissed the claims against the individual tribal officers and directors. He found the state does not have authority to enforce federal law, and also that the individual tribal leaders are not engaging in any violation of federal law.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas initially encouraged the Tribe to pursue gaming on the land, and began tribal-state gaming compact negotiations in early 2013. The Tribe obtained the advisory letter opinion at the insistence of Brownback. However, Brownback later stopped negotiating in good faith, decided to sue the Quapaw Tribe, and began supporting a state-owned casino in the area.

John L. Berrey, Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe, issued the following statement:

“This decision vindicates the actions of the Quapaw Tribe with respect to the failed gaming compact negotiations. We obtained the opinion from the National Indian Gaming Commission because our tribe desired to be in full compliance with the law, and also because Governor Brownback made it a condition of the gaming compact negotiations. Governor Brownback lead us to believe that he would honor the NIGC’s decision, and would agree to a compact if the NIGC determined we could conduct gaming lawfully on our Kansas land, which it did.

“Not only did Governor Brownback not engage in good-faith negotiations, as he promised, but he and Attorney General Derek Schmidt deliberately targeted and harassed a number of our tribal leaders by suing them. Most of these people had no connection or involvement with tribal gaming. The suit appears to have been nothing but an attempt to discourage the Tribe from pursuing its rights under federal law.

“This case should cause people in Kansas to ask a lot of questions, especially about Governor Brownback’s treatment of Indians and use of taxpayers’ money.”