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Archive for Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Wyandotte County casino sought by Kansas tribes

Kickapoo, Sac and Fox seek site for joint operation near speedway

April 30, 2002

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— Two Indian tribes already running northeast Kansas casinos want to combine their gambling operations in Wyandotte County.

The tribes the Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox issued a joint statement Monday saying they have been pursuing plans for about six months. They have asked to meet with Gov. Bill Graves in hopes of getting his support.

And, as an incentive for Graves and legislators to back their proposal, attorneys said the two tribes are willing to give the state a cut of casino revenues.

No site has been specified. But Lance Burr, a Lawrence attorney who represents the Kickapoo, said the tribes would be most interested in locating near the Kansas Speedway in western Wyandotte County.

The tribes issued their statement less than three weeks after the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma moved about 200 slot machines onto land it claims in downtown Kansas City, Kan. The Oklahoma tribe has said it plans to have a casino operating by July.

Graves spokesman Don Brown said the governor is aware of the request for a meeting from the Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox and is having staff research gambling issues.

"We've got to do some homework," Brown said Monday, adding that Graves is not opposed to meeting with the tribes.

The idea of two or more northeast Kansas tribes running a single casino in Wyandotte County is not new.

In 1994, with the backing of then-Gov. Joan Finney, the Kickapoo, Iowa and Sac and Fox tribes proposed such a casino. That deal fell apart because of skepticism from legislators, who must approve gambling compacts between tribes and the state.

Lawmakers approved separate compacts the following year for the three tribes and for the Prairie Band Potawatomi, whose casino is managed by Harrah's Entertainment Inc.

In May 1996, the Kickapoo opened a casino five miles west of Horton. The Sac and Fox opened a casino nearby, two miles south of the junction of U.S. Highway 75 and Kansas Highway 20, in early 1997.

But Burr and Paul Alexander, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing the Sac and Fox, said the idea of a Wyandotte County casino always remained.

"It's never been completely off the table," Alexander said during an interview Monday.

The Oklahoma tribe has pursued a casino since 1996, despite opposition from Graves and the four northeast Kansas tribes.

Last month, the U.S. Interior Department took a former Masonic lodge and its land into trust for the Oklahoma tribe, but Graves is challenging the decision. A 1988 federal law allows tribal casinos on reservations or land held in trust.

The Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox also would have to persuade the Interior Department to put land into trust for them. As governor, Graves would make a recommendation and negotiate a compact to submit to legislators.

"We know he's interested," Burr said. "We have just have to get down to brass tacks."

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