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Quapaw's Downstream Casino Cites Kansas' Hostile Environment, La - KOAM TV 7

Quapaw's Downstream Casino Cites Kansas' Hostile Environment, Lawsuit, For Withdrawing From Proposal Partnership

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The Quapaw Tribe's Downstream Casino Resort, of Oklahoma, withdrew from a partnership in a Kansas state-owned casino proposal citing a hostile and adversarial environment created when the Kansas attorney general filed a federal lawsuit to halt a separate plan by the Tribe to expand its existing casino. 

"The state of Kansas has shown us what they think of us," said Quapaw Chairman John Berrey. "So in order to help our partner in the Emerald City Casino proposal, Mr. Phil Ruffin, we felt it would be best if we were no longer involved. We will instead focus our energy on expanding Downstream Casino Resort across the Kansas state line where we have every right to engage in fair competition with the other casinos of the region."

In December, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC, part of the U.S. Department of Interior), issued an opinion granting the Quapaw Tribe the legal right to operate a casino on its federal trust land in Cherokee County Kansas. It was after that opinion and after the Tribe partnered in the Kansas casino proposal known as Emerald City, that the Cherokee County Commission and Kansas attorney general decided to sue the NIGC to stop the Downstream expansion.

"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."

Withdrawing From Emerald City Casino Resort Proposal

Berrey said he had spoken with Phil Ruffin, and with his Tribal government and Downstream colleagues, and decided that removing themselves from the Emerald City proposal partnership would allow the proposal its best chance in the competition for the state gaming license in Kansas' southeast zone. There are three proposals under consideration.

He said he deeply hopes Emerald City is selected and goes forward for the sake of the communities of Frontenac and Pittsburg, and for all the citizens of Crawford and Cherokee counties, because Emerald City would benefit them more than any other casino being proposed by the other applicants. In the past seven years Downstream and Tribe have proven their commitment to the people of southeast Kansas, and have shown their spirit of community partnering through their actions, leadership and generosity.

"We are highly disappointed in our Cherokee County government for failing its citizens and for turning its back on us by initiating this unnecessary and mean-spirited legal challenge," Berrey said.

Kansas AG's Lawsuit

Chairman Berrey said it was never a secret that Downstream Casino intended to eventually expand into Kansas - the resort's main parking lot is in Cherokee County Kansas. The desire to expand has been public knowledge for years. So it is ridiculous and false for the state and local county government to imply that the Tribe did anything sneaky in gaining the right to expand gaming 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."

Berrey said he reached out to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback but the governor refused the Tribe consultation on its expansion. "It seems he wanted to pretend that we don't exist down here. Now he wants to sue us?" Berrey said. He released the following additional statement regarding the lawsuit:

The state of Kansas is in the business of gaming, it's a competitive business especially down here in the southeast corner, and the state views Downstream as a competitor. It's unseemly, and it is the risk inherent in the state engaging directly in business. At a minimum it appears that the state and municipality intend to wield the levers of governmental power to promote their own business at the expense of a federally recognized tribe despite the tribe's explicit right to game and the state's obligation to negotiate a compact in good faith. It's shameless and there ought to be a law against a state's engaging in unfair business practices.

Because Downstream is here, the state government changed the gaming law to try to bring a casino to southeast Kansas. Now a state-owned casino will come to southeast Kansas. But meanwhile, because we can now expand into Kansas independent of the state gaming law, the elected county officials and the state want to change the rules again to limit our ability to compete. It is certainly unethical, and it might well be illegal. The court will decide.

Of Downstream Casino's more than 1,000 team members, 200 live in Cherokee County, pay income taxes, property taxes and purchase of goods and services in Cherokee County. The expansion across the Kansas line would create an additional 30 to 40 jobs, and new local and state tax revenue. Downstream Casino in its seven years has donated many thousands of dollars to Cherokee County non-profits and community organizations, and recently Downstream has been the lead partner in a multi-governmental partnership to develop a modern waste water treatment facility for the county.

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