TOPEKA — Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma Chief Bill Friend expressed skepticism Monday a federal lawsuit filed by the Kansas attorney general on behalf of four plaintiffs would succeed in blocking construction of a trial casino on land near Wichita.
The petition submitted by Attorney General Derek Schmidt in U.S. District Court seeks an order setting aside action by the U.S. Department of Interior clearing obstacles to development of the Wyandotte Nation’s gaming facility in Park City.
In May, the Interior Department unexpectedly revised a decision made in 2014 the attorney general thought prohibited the tribe from building on that site.
Friend said land for the proposed casino was in a federal trust that could only be broken by an act of Congress. The tribe is interested in opening its casino in early 2021.
“They fought us for 14 years in Washington, D.C., to try to break what was our legal right,” Friend said in an interview from Wyandotte, Okla. “We fought through the politics of it and all the money they spent on lobbying.”
Schmidt said the legal question was whether federal law could override a state statute prohibiting more than one casino in south-central Kansas.
Plaintiffs in the suit include Sumner County, the city of Mulvane, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska. One of Kansas’ four state-operated casinos, Kansas Star Casino, is in Mulvane.
David Bernhardt, secretary of the Interior Department, was named as one of the defendants in Schmidt’s suit.
Schmidt said the state of Kansas wasn’t notified the tribe was in talks with the federal government to reconsider the department’s position on Park City. The lawsuit says no notice was provided to Kansas or other plaintiffs “despite their significant participation in the administrative proceedings and litigation involving the proposed the Park City trust acquisition between September 2010 and July 2014.”
Friend said the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma bought the Park City land in 1992, but the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs said the location immediately north of Wichita wasn’t appropriate for a casino. The tribe pivoted to Kansas City, Kansas, and opened a casino there after a 12-year legal battle with the state.
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