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PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) – An American Indian tribe based in Oklahoma is pulling out of a partnership seeking to build a casino in southeast Kansas because of hostility from Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, the tribe’s chairman said.

John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe, announced Wednesday that the tribe will not be partners with developer Phil Ruffin in a proposed Emerald City Casino & Resort north of Pittsburg. He said the withdrawal is in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt seeking to stop the tribe from expanding its Downstream Casino facility in Oklahoma onto land the tribe owns in Kansas.

“Bringing this litigation was not only a mean thing to do, and wrong on its face, but it seeks to cheat the citizens of southeast Kansas out of additional revenue that they deserve,” Berrey said. “We intend to fight for our rights and for the Cherokee County, Kansas, citizens’ best interests.”

When asked for a response, Jennifer Rapp, a spokeswoman for Schmidt, referred to comments the attorney general made when the lawsuit was filed March 9.

“We believe the tribe should be held to its word that the land would not be used for gaming, and the federal government should follow the law in allowing the state to have its voice heard on how the land will be used,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s lawsuit challenges a National Indian Gaming Commission decision to allow casino gambling on Cherokee County land that is currently being used for a parking lot. He said the Quapaw tribe had promised its land in Kansas would not be used for gambling, which Schmidt’s lawsuit says “creates an impression that the State of Kansas and/or the (Bureau of Indian Affairs) were misled.”

Berrey said the tribe always intended to expand its Downstream Casino into Kansas.

“Those who say we did anything wrong just don’t understand the laws and processes themselves,” Berrey said. “Now, it’s possible they might have believed we could not gain the eligibility. But they were wrong and now they just don’t want to accept it.”

Ruffin said in an email to The Joplin Globe that he will proceed with licensing efforts for the proposed $84 million casino and resort, which is one of three proposals being considered for a state-owned casino in Crawford or Cherokee counties.

A second applicant, the $145 million Castle Rock Casino, is proposed for Cherokee County, while the third proposal, a $62 million Kansas Crossing, would be built in south Crawford County, on the Cherokee County line.

The Kansas Lottery has until April 30 to review the three casino proposals. If approved, the proposals will be sent to the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board, which is expected to name a winner by the end of June.


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe,

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