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Archive for Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Tribe plans to build casino in Wichita area

Project faces local, state and federal hurdles

October 6, 2004

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— The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska announced plans Tuesday to develop a large casino in south-central Kansas, an off-reservation project that faces huge regulatory hurdles.

Tribe Chairman Louis DeRoin said the tribe had entered into an agreement with a development group headed by former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, who is the tribe's appointed representative for the project.

DeRoin declined to talk about specifics of the plan when contacted by The Associated Press. Knight did not return messages left for comment.

In its announcement, the tribe said it planned a large-scale facility in the Sedgwick County area -- provided it could obtain local, state and federal approvals. No specific location was mentioned.

Matt All, chief counsel to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the tribe had made no request for negotiations. He said their ideas were still "very preliminary."

Any land acquired by an Indian tribe after 1988 is not eligible for gaming unless the tribe gets an exception from the U.S. Secretary of Interior, All said. Then it would have to negotiate with the state and get approval from the Legislature.

"We are talking a matter of years before we know if something like that would be approved," All said.

State Rep. William Mason, who chairs the joint committee on state tribal affairs, said at best its prospects were unlikely.

The Iowa Tribe's reservation encompasses 2,700 acres at the convergence of the Missouri and Nemaha Rivers in the northeast corner of Kansas and the southeast corner of Nebraska. Only three off-reservation casinos in the nation have been approved, said Mason, R-El Dorado. Mason has opposed expanded gambling in Kansas while in the Legislature.

The proposal has already generated opposition from Glenn Thompson, executive director of the anti-gambling group Stand Up for Kansas. He cited a 1993 referendum which found 59 percent of voters did not want a casino in the Wichita area.

Clay Bastion, chairman of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., said a study it conducted earlier this year concluded a casino would have a net positive economic impact on the Wichita region. He said his group would prefer to see a casino in downtown Wichita.

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