Kansas sues to block Wyandotte Nation’s plans for casino

Generic Casino Floor With Slot Machines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas filed a lawsuit Monday against top officials at the U.S. Department of Interior in an effort to block the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma from building a casino on land it owns in Park City, the latest legal twist in a decades-long dispute over the tribe’s legal authority on the 10-acre parcel.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas is an effort to set aside a decision issued in May by the Interior Department that cleared the way for the project. That May decision reversed the department’s decision from 2014 that had denied the tribe’s request to build the casino on the parcel it purchased in 1992.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a news release that Kansas learned about the department’s changed position from news reports, despite the state’s significant participation in administrative proceedings and litigation between 2010 and 2014.

The proposed tribal casino in Park City would be located about 30 miles from the Kansas Star casino in Mulvane. Sumner County and the city of Mulvane joined the state in its lawsuit, as did the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska.

Release from Kansas Attorney General’s Office

TOPEKA – (August 10, 2020) – The State of Kansas has asked a federal court to set aside a decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior that allows the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma to build and operate a casino on land in Park City, Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced today.

In May, the tribe announced that the Department of the Interior had taken regulatory steps to allow a tribal casino to be built on the parcel of land. The unexpected announcement reversed a previous decision from 2014, in which the department had rejected the tribe’s request to build a casino on the parcel. The tribe purchased the parcel in 1992.

Schmidt said that although Kansas was actively involved in previous discussions about allowing casino gaming on the land, the state was not told further discussions were underway between the tribe and the department or that the department was considering reversing its position.  The state learned about the department’s changed position from news reports.

“[N]o notice of any kind was provided to Kansas or any of the other plaintiffs despite their significant participation in the administrative proceedings and litigation involving the proposed the Park City trust acquisition between September 2010, and July 2014,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit is the latest in a decades-long dispute over the tribe’s legal authority to build a casino on the parcel. At issue is whether federal law authorizes the enterprise; Kansas law prohibits casino gaming at that location, so the tribal casino may only be built if federal law overrides the state prohibition. Kansas has strongly defended its state-law prohibition.

Other plaintiffs joining the State of Kansas in this lawsuit are Sumner County and the City of Mulvane, which are home to the Kansas Star casino that is the only casino authorized by state law in south central Kansas; the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska; and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska. Defendants are David Bernhardt, secretary of the Department of Interior, and Tara Sweeney, assistant secretary-Indian Affairs of the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The lawsuit, State of Kansas ex rel Derek Schmidt v. David Bernhardt et. al., was filed today in federal district court in Kansas. A copy of the state’s petition is available at https://bit.ly/31S88c3.