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Casino would hurt Creeks, Ellis says

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Casino would hurt Creeks, Ellis says Related story: Residents protest casino.

Casino would hurt Creeks, Ellis says Read the stories and see the documents related to the Kialegee Tribal Town’s efforts to open a casino in Broken Arrow.

"They just don't have the expertise to do anything like this," he said. "If they get by with this, there will be somebody else, then somebody else."

Ellis said he believes the planned Broken Arrow casino would be detrimental to the success the Creeks have had at their River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, where an estimated 30 percent of local patrons are Broken Arrow residents.

River Spirit, in its new facility since March 2009, employs about 1,000 people.

"We worked hard. This was a battle getting this built. A lot of things depend on it, and a lot of things depend on how successful this is," he said. "I'd hate to see layoffs."

Until the Kialegee issue is resolved, Ellis said River Spirit's expansion plans, which include a hotel, are on hold.

He said he thought another casino in the metro area would also hurt the tribe's gaming-funded programs for seniors, children and college students who are Creek citizens - including the Kialegees, who have dual citizenship.

"They do what they call double-dipping (from programs), but mostly from ours because they don't have many programs like we do," Ellis said of the Kialegee Tribal Town members.

George Tiger, who as a member of the tribe's National Council has testified in state court in favor of the proposed casino, said he will respond to the Kialegee issue after he is sworn in as chief.

"I don't understand how he can be involved in something that will hurt (the tribe)," Ellis said of Tiger. "I would think in order to keep the tribe together he'd have to say he's against it."

Ellis did not run for re-election because of term limits.

The Kialegee Tribal Town, a federally recognized tribe based in Wetumka, has about 429 members. It has made many attempts to buy land in other states during the past decade, news reports reflect. Ellis said it does not have any land in trust.

The outgoing chief said gaming groups throughout the country engage in a practice known as "reservation shopping" by partnering with willing tribes.

"They get a following with them. They do it all the time, but they're not very successful. That's probably what's going on here now," Ellis said.

Tiger Hobia, the Town King of the Kialegee Tribal Town, has repeatedly declined to be interviewed, but he did issue a statement on Dec. 24. A portion of that statement says:

"The Kialegee Tribal Town project is the epitome of the Congressional vision for Indian economic development. The Kialegee Tribal Town, to date, has had no viable economic development opportunities. As such, the Kialegee Tribal Town is dependent on limited allocations and subsidies to fund its tribal operations. Consequently, the Kialegee Tribal Town does not possess the resources to provide any programming to serve the needs of its members. This is one of the very reasons the Indian Gaming Act was enacted."

Ellis said the Kialegees tried to put land into trust in the 1990s but that the Muscogee (Creek) National Council passed a resolution to stop it. It is now time for Oklahoma's U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe "to speak up" against the casino, he said.

As for the Broken Arrow residents who oppose the casino, Ellis said he would help them any way he could.

Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
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