An Oklahoma Indian tribe is abandoning efforts to build a casino complex in Douglas County. Instead, it is turning its attention to a location in Leavenworth County and other undisclosed locations, the tribal chairman said Wednesday.
"We're looking at a lot of possibilities," said Dee Ketchum of Bartlesville, Okla., tribal chairman of the Delaware Tribe of Indians. "There's so many things that have to be put in the right places before we really go forward with anything."
Ketchum said the tribe had tested the market in Lawrence but he recognized the casino was not the right fit for Douglas County.
Opposition arose almost immediately after the Delaware plan was reported last summer.
A group opposed to the casino formed and began circulating petitions against it.
The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce board of directors came out against the casino.
"I respect that," Ketchum said of the opposition.
The tribe had been negotiating purchase of about 80 acres of farmland near Lawrence Municipal Airport for construction of a $60 million casino complex including a hotel, convention center and museum.
Since abandoning Lawrence as location, Ketchum said Wednesday, "We're just taking a deep breath and looking at what other options there are in Kansas."
Ketchum said he was scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 8 with Leavenworth County commissioners.
"It's certainly being considered by our (tribal) council to just make some initial inquiries," Ketchum said of a Leavenworth County location. "I don't really want to have something blown out of proportion and that's what happened in Lawrence."
Ketchum said the tribe has historical ties, particularly in southern Leavenworth County. He said Tonganoxie is named for a Delaware tribal chief.
"There is a great deal of history in the Tonganoxie area with the Delaware Tribe. Such a legacy was left there," he said.
The tribe's ties to northeast Kansas have been part of its attraction to the Lawrence area.
Before being forced to move to Oklahoma, Ketchum said, the tribe lived from 1830 to 1867 on a 2 million-acre reservation in northeast Kansas. In 1863 a group of Delaware led by White Turkey helped drive Quantrill's raiders from town, Ketchum said.
The ties to Lawrence are important because federal law allows tribes to operate gaming operations on Indian lands. And federal officials encourage tribes without permanent homes the Delaware tribe has been unable to secure land within the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma to focus on their previous reservation land, Ketchum said.
Leavenworth County commissioners said they had few details about what Ketchum might propose.
"There are several things I'd want to talk about before I saw that happen," Don Navinsky, county commission chairman, told The Tonganoxie Mirror. "Economic development what does this do to help us or hinder us?"
Navinsky and fellow commissioners said they were not aware of any specific sites the Delaware Tribe is considering.
"It has to be win-win for Leavenworth County or I'm not interested," Commissioner Bob Adams said.
To build a casino, the tribe must acquire land and receive approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Then the governor could negotiate a compact, which would require legislative approval.