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Archive for Thursday, July 8, 2004

Charges dismissed against ex-casino manager

July 8, 2004

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— A judge on Wednesday threw out two gambling-related charges filed against the general manager of a closed American Indian casino in downtown Kansas City, Kan.

Ellis Enyart, 52, of Wyandotte, Okla., was charged with felony commercial gambling and a misdemeanor charge of possession of a gambling device after the state raided and closed the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma's 7th Street Casino on April 2. Similar charges against a second employee had previously been dropped.

Wednesday's ruling has no direct impact on whether the casino will reopen.

In his ruling after a court hearing, Wyandotte County District Judge Robert L. Serra agreed with Enyart's attorney that federal law superseded state law regulating Indian gaming.

After years of trying to build a casino somewhere else in Wyandotte County, the Wyandotte Tribe opened the casino Aug. 28, 2003, in several mobile homes parked next to a Masonic temple adjacent to the tribe's cemetery.

Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline sued the National Indian Gaming Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior last fall after the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma opened the casino. In March, the National Indian Gaming Commission ruled the casino was operating illegally and gave the tribe a week to respond. After that week passed, state and local officials stepped in and closed the casino.

The casino offered about 150 bingo games, "pull tab" games and electronic pull tab devices that play like slot machines. The Interior Department ruled last year that the tribe's downtown land was eligible for federally licensed Class II gambling activities, which allows such games.

In 1996, the Interior Department took the property in trust for the tribe -- a decision the state is currently appealing in the federal court.

At Wednesday's hearing, attorney Winston H. Connor II argued that Enyart was caught in the middle of a political fight between the tribe and Kline, the state of Kansas, and Carol Marinovich, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.

Enyart, who smiled broadly when the ruling was announced, declined to comment.

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