Plans to expand Oklahoma casino into Kansas could be on indefinite hold

Plans to expand Oklahoma casino into Kansas could be on indefinite hold

A Northeast Oklahoma casino’s plans to expand into Southeast Kansas could be put on an indefinite hold because of a recent court motion.

The Quapaw Tribe and the State of Kansas have been at odds for some time now about the proposal to expand gaming. Land for this gaming would come from what was part of the original Quapaw Tribe. The Quapaw Tribe points to an opinion by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the tribe has the right to expand its gaming portion of Downstream Casino, in Northeast Oklahoma, into Southeast Kansas. There’s only a Downstream Casino parking lot right now in Southeast Kansas.

But the State of Kansas has fought against this expansion. Downstream needs what’s called a compact with the state, a business agreement, for the class three gaming proposal. The Quapaw Tribe recently filed a federal lawsuit against the state, demanding the state work with the tribe to come to some type of gaming agreement.

But the state has filed a motion with the federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, citing the state’s lawsuit immunity in federal court. The tribe agreed with this motion.

One law professor explained to us what state lawsuit immunity in federal court means.

“The Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution provides that a state cannot be sued by citizens of another state, or by its own citizens, in federal court unless that state has waived its sovereign immunity in certain instances. That is, it can’t be sued for money damages in federal court,” says Jeffrey Jackson, a law professor at Washburn University.

“States are not just subdivisions of the federal government. There is actually a distinction between federal power and state power. And states have some residual sovereign immunity to this,” says Jackson.

“It was this idea that the Constitution was, in fact, passed with the understanding that states would not be able to be sued by citizens of other states,” says Jackson.

The Kansas Attorney General Office says even if a judge accepts the state’s motion and the tribe’s acceptance of that motion, the state will oppose any further efforts to expand by the tribe into Kansas. Tribe officials with knowledge of this case say the tribe has no other legal plans, for the time being.