- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The specter of Kansas possibly furloughing state government workers is affecting the lawsuit the state filed against an Oklahoma tribe over its proposed casino.

Kansas sued the Quapaw tribe to keep it from expanding its casino into southeastern Kansas, arguing it would harm that state’s current efforts to build its own casino in the area. The U.S. Department of Interior also is named as a defendant.

But Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked the court to extend next week’s deadline to answer a Justice Department motion seeking to dismiss the state’s lawsuit, saying Tuesday that Kansas needs more time to conduct extensive legal research. Schmidt’s filing also says its attorneys face a possible work furlough due to legislative conflict over the state budget.

Officials in Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have warned lawmakers that state workers would be furloughed Sunday if a deal is not reached.

The attorney general’s office said in an emailed statement that it asked for the continuance because it is “trying to minimize the effect” of a possible furlough on the state’s litigation interests. It also said it planned to oppose the move to dismiss its lawsuit.

Sean Harrison, the spokesman for the Quapaw’s Downstream Casino Resort said the tribe agreed with the government’s motion seeking to dismiss the case, but said that the tribe would not otherwise comment on the pending litigation.

At issue in the state’s lawsuit against the tribe is a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission to allow casino gambling on the Quapaw tribe’s land in Cherokee County, Kansas. That land, purchased by Quapaw in 2006 for a parking lot, is adjacent to its Downstream Casino site across the state line in Oklahoma.

The federal government put the 124-acre strip of Kansas land in trust for the tribe in 2012, and the commission in November declared that the site could be treated as reservation land and used for casino gambling under federal law.

The tribe is planning a $15 million addition offering table games, such as roulette, not allowed in Oklahoma.

The Justice Department lawyers, who represent the Interior Department in the legal dispute, argued in a court filing last month that Schmdit’s lawsuit should be dismissed because Kansas has not proven the federal court has jurisdiction, in part because the NIGC’s decision does not constitute “final agency action” and is therefore not subject to judicial review since the state has not exhausted its administrative appeals.

In addition, the government argued the tribe’s stated intention for its property is “legally irrelevant” to the criteria used under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act related to gambling within a tribe’s “last recognized reservation.”

The state’s 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 gaming purposes. But the tribe argues that it had no intention to change the use of the land until the Kansas Legislature sought to put a state-owned casino there to directly compete with the tribe’s casino.

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