Archive for Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Local leaders optimistic that Indian tribe doesn’t have plans for Lawrence casino

November 5, 2013


The Delaware Tribe of Indians may have an interest in a northeast Kansas casino at some point, but local leaders are more confident than ever it won't be built in Douglas County.

At a meeting hosted Monday by Lawrence and Douglas County officials, leaders with the Oklahoma-based tribe confirmed they have signed a development agreement with a company that specializes in building casinos. But the agreement does not specify a site for a casino, and multiple local leaders said they were optimistic the tribe had given up any thoughts for a casino on a prime piece of North Lawrence property the tribe purchased earlier this year.

"We certainly were left with the impression that their thoughts on Lawrence being a site for a casino were pretty much dashed at this point," said Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman, who attended the meeting, which lasted for several hours.

Attempts to reach officials with the tribe were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Lawrence Mayor Mike Dever, though, said he also is confident the tribe has put aside whatever thoughts it had for a casino in the area. Tribal leaders have never said they had plans for a casino in Lawrence, but they also had stated they wouldn't rule out the possibility of a casino for the approximately 90-acre tract of land they purchased along the Kansas Turnpike in North Lawrence.

"I don't believe they view this land as the premium or premier location for any gaming activity that may take place in the future," Dever said. "I think we have made it clear to them that we would find that problematic."

City and county officials spent considerable time at Monday's meeting going over the development challenges associated with the low-lying piece of property, which formerly was the sod farm for the Pine Family Farms.

Dever said local officials talked about the considerable flooding problems associated with the property, the community desire to preserve prime agricultural soils, and numerous regulatory issues that could be put in play by the Federal Aviation Administration because of the property's proximity to the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

Thellman said she and others urged the tribe to consider agricultural uses for the property. She said the property could make for a unique agritourism site that would educate people about traditional food-producing techniques and Native American culture and history.

Dever said he's convinced the tribe is still very interested in having a significant presence in Lawrence, perhaps moving its tribal headquarters from Bartlesville, Okla.

"They want to move here," Dever said. "They clearly are looking for an opportunity to bring jobs and bring federal dollars into this area to assist the Native American population that lives in the region."

Tribal officials on Monday acknowledged they had signed a development agreement with the casino development firm River Trails LLC. The Journal-World reported in August that the Delaware Tribe in 2011 had signed a development agreement with River Trails that instructed the company to look for sites for a casino in northeast Kansas. The development agreement became the subject of a federal lawsuit. Local officials said they were told Monday that the lawsuit has been dismissed, and a new development agreement with the company has been signed.

But local leaders were told the agreement does not direct River Trails to focus on a particular site, although it does specify that the casino would be in Kansas. Tribal officials reportedly had looked for property in Leavenworth County prior to purchasing the Lawrence site this summer.

Nothing in the development agreement would stop the tribe from trying to develop a casino in the Lawrence area, but Dever said he thinks that is unlikely at this point.

"It was clear to us that they only want gaming to happen if it comes with community support," Dever said. "In other words, I think they care how we feel about them as a group. They want to be welcomed here."

Lands north of the Kansas River were the tribe's last home before being forced to move into Oklahoma shortly after the Civil War.

The tribe has acknowledged that it has an interest in becoming a federally recognized Kansas-based tribe. Currently, the tribe is on Cherokee land in Oklahoma, which limits some of the federal funding and programs available to the tribe.


John Graham 2 years ago

They will have a casino on the land within 10 years, more likely within 5 years. Just like normal the city and county commissioners are against something that would bring jobs to the area.

Jeanette Kekahbah 2 years ago

John it took 22 years for the gov't to grant trust status to land purchased by the Kaw Nation in Oklahoma.

John Graham 2 years ago

Fine, they will have a casino on the land within 10 years of being granted trust status. The point remains the same. This group of commissioners seem against an idea that would bring jobs to the area.

Greg DiVilbiss 2 years ago

I am a little unclear why the headline says "optimistic" It would seem to me unless it is clear that this would be a negative and not a benefit, the commissioners would at least want to know about the economic impact of a Casino located there. That they would not be optimistic that jobs and tourism dollars are not coming to the area.

Now maybe a Casino would be the worst thing ever, but I would like to know the real plus and minuses of having it here. Sure does not seem to be harming the Legends.

Maybe the headline should read.... Local leaders "Believe'" that Indian tribe doesn’t have plans for Lawrence casino

Bill Fair 2 years ago

Good thought Greg. It is always problematic trying to tell other people what they should do with their land. Rather 'karmic wheelish' don't you think that these are the very people who were living on the very spot when our culture moved in? Talk about adaptation.

Ted Morehouse 2 years ago

First of all, these are not the people who were living here, those people died long ago. These are just people interested in making gobs of money. Casinos do boost the economy, but they also seed society with a few more problem gamblers. I think that if we keep in mind the rough state of much of north Lawrence, building a casino north of I70 is a good thing.

Jeff Plinsky 2 years ago

It is only a good thing for Lawrence if it would bring the right kind of jobs. More minimum wage jobs won't help this community in the long term. They would only cause more of our townsfolk to struggle to make ends meet. If, however, it would provide lots of jobs at a living wage, it would be worth considering.

It sounds like the Delaware Tribe want to be responsible neighbors and members of the community. We need welcome that opportunity if it is indeed what they say it is. But the proof is in the business plan....

Clark Coan 2 years ago

They ought to buy land in eastern Penn. since that's where the tribe is from. They were only in Kansas for around 30 years.

It would make more sense to build a casino near Bonner Springs or Topeka because of the bigger population.

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