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Delegation pressuring agencies on BA casino

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Delegation pressuring agencies on BA casino Continuing coverage: Read more on the proposed Kialegee casino in Broken Arrow here.

Describing actions by the Kialegee Tribal Town as unprecedented, Sullivan said he and Sen. Tom Coburn sent letters to two key federal officials as part of their effort to derail the entire proposal.

"I think it is illegal," he said.

Sullivan, R-Okla., predicted that the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs will have to decide whether the land, located at 129th East Avenue (Olive Avenue) and 111th (Florence) Street, is eligible for gaming.

"I don't think it is," he said, adding that federal law bars the kind of land transfer sought by the Kialegee Tribal Town.

"We want to put pressure on the NIGC and the BIA," he added.

Sullivan said the two agencies have the ultimate say on such a land transfer and the casino project.

"They have not done that yet," he told the Tulsa World. "We want to derail this."

In a separate statement, Inhofe, R-Okla., said his office has been assured by the BIA that no lease application has been made on the land.

"This renders the current lease on the land invalid," he said.

"Given the strong local opposition to a casino at this location and the land's proximity to schools and homes, I do not believe that the BIA would approve such an application even if it were made."

Inhofe said leases on land belonging to the Five Civilized Tribes can be approved only by a state district court's ruling or through the application process at the BIA.

"In the case of this land, the district court's ruling deferred the parties to the BIA application process," he said.

Records indicate that the property where the Kialegee Tribal Town wants to build the casino is owned by Marcella Giles and Wynema Capps, who inherited the Creek allotment from their father.

They tried to transfer the property to the Kialegee Tribal Town through a lease, but a Tulsa County district court judge withheld approval of that request.

Neither the NIGC nor the BIA commented Friday.

In their letters to the two agencies, Sullivan and Coburn asked for information about the legal status of the land and other issues surrounding the controversial proposal.

The two Oklahoma Republicans asked Tracie Stevens, chairwoman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, and Assistant U.S. Interior Secretary Larry Echo Hawk to respond to their questions in writing by Jan. 17.

"To date, has the National Indian Gaming Commission or the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) determined that the proposed location of the Kialegee Tribal Town casino in Broken Arrow qualifies as 'Indian lands' under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act?" Sullivan and Coburn asked.

"If no determination has been made, what issues are raised with respect to making an 'Indian lands' determination with respect to the proposed location of the Kialegee Tribal Town casino?"

They also asked whether the agencies have determined whether the Kialegee Tribal Town "exercises governmental power," as required by federal law for gaming to occur on the land.

Other questions posed by Sullivan and Coburn covered topics ranging from documentation received by the two agencies and the status of any other land that might be held in trust for the Kialegee Tribal Town to an environmental impact statement and an appeal process.

"In the days since construction began on this casino, we have personally met with residents of Broken Arrow who subsequently presented a petition signed by close to 2,000 residents strongly opposed to the new Kialegee Tribal Town casino where active construction continues," the two men stated.

"Their concerns include proposed casino's close proximity to public facilities, like schools; growing strain placed on public resources including public safety, roads and increased traffic through the city; and the perceived 'below the radar' path this development has taken to date."

Rumors, questions of other casinos abound

Rumors of other potential casinos in south Tulsa and Broken Arrow were plentiful Friday, though none of them could be confirmed.

Broken Arrow spokeswoman Stephanie Higgins said the ground work under way on the west side of Aspen Avenue near the Creek Turnpike is for a fire station.

Tulsa City Councilor Phil Lakin said he had been receiving calls that the South Yale Smoke Shop site at the northwest corner of 111th Street and Yale Avenue might be ripe for gaming.

A clerk there said the heirs to the smoke shop property did not have any gaming plans.

But even if a casino isn't planned at the site in the short term, Lakin said, it still raises questions about potential land uses on allotted Indian lands that exist throughout the area, especially if the Kialegee Tribal Town casino goes through in Broken Arrow.

"I think it still brings to light our potential need to better understand what can be done on lands that are held in trust or on allotted lands, just so we can be more aware," Lakin said. "It's just scary to think that the zoning laws we have in place, and the way the public has set out their neighborhoods, that what they think they're building their homes and businesses next to is not necessarily what it's going to be."

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett released a statement Friday opposing the Kialegee casino, saying it's construction would set a dangerous precedent.

"What they are attempting to establish in Broken Arrow is a beachhead and we will not stand by and allow developments of this type to happen in our city and across our state," he said. "Should we have to deal with a similar situation in Tulsa, I believe we would agree this is not a good thing for the city and its respective citizens."

- Susan Hylton, World Staff Writer

Original Print Headline: Delegation pressuring agencies on casino

Jim Myers 202-484-1424
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