Kansas tribes divided over expanding gambling legislation 4-2-07

Associated Press Writer

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) - Just because one Indian tribe says it's planning to sue the state over legislation allowing expanded gambling doesn't mean all of them oppose it.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi, which operates one of four tribal casinos in northeast Kansas, claims the legislation is unconstitutional. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius plans to sign the legislation putting Kansas in a unique position of having state-run casinos, unlike the 11 other states with commercial casinos.

But the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo tribes, which also operate tribal casinos, are partners for a bid to operate the casino allowed in Wyandotte County, said Fredia Perkins, Sac and Fox tribal chairwoman.

``We aren't going to sue. In fact, we asked the Potawatomi to join us a long time ago in the Kansas City project,'' she said.

The Sac and Fox and Kickapoo jointly purchased some 80 acres in western Wyandotte County four years ago, which many see as an ideal location because it's located near Kansas Speedway and a growing commercial area.

``Just like any good business, because of the growing demands of our people, we have to look for ways to expand our aid to our people,'' Perkins said.

The Kansas Constitution allows a ``state-owned and operated'' lottery, and the state Supreme Court has said ``lottery'' is defined broadly enough to cover other gambling, including slot machines and casinos.

But opponents argue the constitution requires the state not only to own the casinos and slots at tracks, but to manage them directly, rather than delegating management to a private company, as the legislation envisions.

The Potawatomi, operating a resort casino north of Topeka on its reservation, says that's why it will challenge the law once it's enacted. When plans for the lawsuit were announced last week, tribal chairwoman Tracy Stanhoff said she didn't know when it would be filed or who else might join the tribe.

She said then that commercial casinos ``will severely impact'' the tribe's casino, which accounts for about 1,000 jobs.

But Sebelius says a legal challenge is expected and believes it will pass a court challenge.

Like the other tribes with casinos on their reservations, the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo come under the authority of the National Indian Gaming Commission in Washington.

Commission spokesman Shawn Pensoneau said nothing prevents tribes from getting into the gambling business off their land while still operating casinos on their reservations.

``They can engage in gaming activities outside their land but it has to be something that is allowed by the state,'' he said.

Leon Campbell, chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, declined to be interviewed and referred questions to former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, who has been representing the tribe. Knight didn't respond to a message left on his answering machine.

At one time, the Iowa Tribe wanted to build a casino in suburban Wichita but decided to look for other locations when the Sedgwick County Commission put off a vote on the project.

Twenty-eight states have Indian gambling - 23 with casinos and five with games such as bingo.

Aside from allowing a resort casino in Wyandotte County, the legislation also allows one each in the Dodge City area, southeast and south-central Kansas. The state would get 22 percent of the revenues, and operators would have to commit to a minimum $225 million investment plus an non-refundable upfront fee of $25 million.

Also dog and horse tracks in Kansas City, Frontenac and Wichita would divide 2,200 slots, with an additional 600 slots once the state signed contracts with casino managers. The state would get 40 percent of the slots revenues.

Both the casinos and slots would have to be approved by voters in the counties where they would be located.


Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

Potawatomi: http://www.pbpindiantribe.com/

Kickapoo: http://www.kickapoonation.com/

Sac and Fox: http://www.sacandfoxcasino.com/

Iowa: http://ioway.nativeweb.org/iowayksne.htm