- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A federal lawsuit seeking to prevent an Oklahoma Indian tribe’s casino from expanding into Kansas was dismissed after the judge said his court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to decide the case.

In a decision announced Friday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree said the court lacks the authority to review an advisory opinion by attorneys for the National Indian Gaming Commission that could allow casino gambling on tribal land in Cherokee County, Kansas.

The lawsuit was filed by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Cherokee County Commission, The Joplin Globe (https://bit.ly/1OCJz2O ) reported.

Schmidt and Cherokee County had not met the legal threshold to challenge the opinion, Crabtree wrote, because the opinion was not a final decision by the gaming commission. The judge also wrote that the Quapaw tribe - which operates the Downstream Casino Resort in far northeast Oklahoma, near the Kansas state line and 10 miles from Joplin, Missouri - has not waived its tribal immunity against lawsuits.

The lawsuit in federal court in Topeka was against the National Indian Gaming Commission, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and 22 other federal and Quapaw officials.

The lawsuit contends the Quapaw tribe misled state and federal officials in late 2011 or early 2012 by providing assurances the land would not be used for gambling purposes. The tribe argued that it had no intention to change the use of the land until the Kansas Legislature sought to put a state-owned casino in the area in direct competition with the tribe’s casino.

Tribe chairman John Berrey said in a written statement that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback had asked the Quapaw tribe to request the opinion from the NIGC as part of the tribe’s effort to negotiate an agreement to allow casino gambling on Quapaw land in Kansas.

An attorney for the gaming commission said in November 2014 that the land could be used for gambling. But instead of honoring the opinion, Berrey said, Kansas officials chose to file lawsuits in an attempt to intimidate the tribe.

A spokesman for Schmidt said the office is reviewing Crabtree’s opinion and assessing the state’s options.

Quapaw spokesman Sean Harrison said the tribe eventually would like to have games such as craps and roulette on its Kansas property because they aren’t allowed at Downstream under Oklahoma law.

The Quapaw tribe surrendered most of its tribal land in Kansas in an 1867 treaty, but in 2006 and 2007 it bought 124 acres in Kansas that now is in federal trust.

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