QUAPAW, Okla. — The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.
According to a release from the tribe, the suit alleges Brownback “violated the requirements of federal law by refusing to negotiate a gaming compact with the Tribe in good faith.”
The Tribe’s owns Downstream Casino Resort, which is located in far northeastern Oklahoma, although some parking lots, support facilities, and a tribal governmental center are located on adjacent Indian land in Kansas.
The release says that following the opening of the resort in 2008, local leaders began encouraging the tribe to develop gaming on its Indian land in Kansas pursuant to a compact that would generate funds for local governments.
However Cherokee County opposed the placement of tribal lands in Kansas into trust, which potentially would allow gambling on that land.
Cherokee County was, at the time, a possible site for a new state-owned casino which would have been located near Downstream.
The contract eventually went to Kansas Crossing, is slated to be built in Crawford County, pending the outcome of litigation filed by Cherokee County and losing bidder Castle Rock. A decision on that lawsuit is expected at any time.
The tribe asserts that Brownback encouraged the tribe to pursue class III compact negotiations, with the condition that it obtain an advisory opinion from the National Indian Gaming Commission’s general counsel confirming its right to conduct gaming in Kansas.
“After the Tribe obtained such an opinion, however, the governor refused to negotiate,” the release said. “Subsequently, the state sued the NIGC to challenge the opinion letter, and later sued the Tribe and 18 of its leaders, agency directors, and others — most of whom have no authority or role in the Tribe’s gaming operations. The state’s claims were rejected by a federal court in Kansas in an opinion issued last month.”
The Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe, John L. Berrey said in the release the tribe was left with few options
“The Quapaw Tribe has had no choice but to file a legal challenge to Governor Brownback’s actions,” he said. “The governor’s actions violate the mandates of federal law that states must (1) negotiate class III gaming compacts with Indian tribes, and (2) must negotiate in good faith. Governor Brownback has done neither.
“Governor Brownback actively encouraged the Quapaw Tribe to request a class III gaming compact, and then, solely to protect a state-owned casino that was proposed for Cherokee County from competition, stopped communicating with us. Federal law plainly requires a state to negotiate in good faith, and it does not permit a governor to refuse to negotiate simply to protect a state casino from competition.
“The Governor acted in bad faith in a number of ways, including by refusing to negotiate and by refusing to communicate after he changed his mind about the compact negotiations. Later, the State of Kansas filed a meritless suit against the Tribe and 18 tribal leaders and directors with no apparent purpose other than to serve as harassment and retaliation, and to discourage the Quapaw Tribe from pursuing its governmental rights under federal law.
“We would prefer not to be in the position of having to file this litigation. But we have to stand up for the rights of Indian tribes and for the rights of tribes under federal law.”
Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor’s office does “not comment on matters of pending litigation.”
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.