The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

September 28, 2013

Quapaw Tribe seeks to expand Downstream Casino into Kansas

QUAPAW, Okla. — The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is seeking to form a compact with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback so it may expand its casino operation at Downstream Casino Resort across the state line into Kansas.

Sean Harrison, spokesman for Downstream, said there would be no immediate comment from tribal officials because plans are so tentative.

Kevin Cure, an attorney advising the Cherokee County Commission, said a consultant for the tribe and casino had contacted the commission and city governments in Baxter Springs and Galena about the proposal. He said the plan would need their support and that of the Riverton School District.

“They’re looking to do Class 3 gaming — dice games and roulette” with the Kansas expansion, Cure said. He said Oklahoma law prohibits it in casinos there, except in electronic form.

A compact would provide each of the government entities 2.5 percent of revenues from the Kansas casino.

Cure said tribal gaming compacts aren’t part of the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act or subject to its requirements.

Cure said Baxter Springs has given its support. The Galena City Council has given authority to Cure, who is the city attorney, and Mayor Dale Oglesby to make a decision on support.

The Cherokee County Commission is seeking answers to several questions from the tribe, including anticipated revenues, if any studies have been done, details of a proposed compact and when construction might start.

The plan is to expand north into nearly 124 acres that is currently the casino’s parking lot. The tribe has a total of 151 acres in federal trust in Cherokee County.

A Sept. 23 letter from Chris Howell, tribal liaison to Brownback, responds to a letter from Quapaw tribal Chairman John Berrey seeking a meeting with the governor to discuss a possible tribal gaming compact. The tribe seeks to use an exception known as “last recognized reservation.”

Howell asked Berrey to wait until the National Indian Gaming Commission had issued a legal opinion on the issue.

“Until the NIGC has issued their legal opinion regarding the parcel of land in Cherokee County, Kan., it would be premature to schedule a meeting to discuss any issues related to the initiation of negotiations for a gaming compact,” Howell wrote to Berrey. “Please let us know when you have received the NIGC legal opinion.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is opposing the effort with the NIGC. Stephen Phillips, assistant attorney general, wrote a letter of opposition to the NIGC on June 21.

The letter notes that the land was placed in trust last year using a nongaming application. The tribe also has no governmental presence in the state.

“So far as I am able to determine, there are no Quapaw governmental offices in Kansas,” Phillips wrote.

Phillips wrote that the parcel was originally part of the Quapaw reservation but was surrendered around the time Kansas became a state.

“Whether this is part of the Quapaw’s last recognized reservation, however, is a historical question that I am not qualified to answer,” Phillips wrote to the NIGC.

Gaming compacts

Chris Howell, tribal liaison to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, said by phone that four tribes now have gaming compacts with the state: the Kickapoo Tribe, the Prairie Brand Potawatomi Nation, the Sac and Fox Nation and the Iowa Tribe. They have the Golden Eagle Casino in Horton, Prairie Band Casino in Mayetta, Sac and Fox Casino in Powhattan and White Cloud Casino in White Cloud, respectively.

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