The Ponca Tribe operates a smoke shop on its trust land in Carter Lake, Iowa, and is planning to open a gaming facility there. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Ponca Tribe 'always open to talk' about contested gaming project

The Ponca Tribe continues to work on plans for a controversial casino in Iowa.

The tribe celebrated late last year when the National Indian Gaming Commission, for the second time, confirmed that its trust land in Carter Lake can be used for a casino. Efforts continue to secure financing and to make other arrangements for the project.

“We’re moving forward,’’ Larry Wright Jr. told The Omaha World-Herald. “We’re evaluating and weighing our options.’’

Those options include talking with the city of Council Bluffs, whose leaders filed a lawsuit in hopes of stopping the casino. The tribe is not named as a defendant but Wright told the paper that he is open to discussions.

“They didn’t try to talk with us,’’ Wright told the paper. “We’re always open to talk.’’

The lawsuit names the NIGC, as well as the Department of the Interior, as defendants. It was filed in federal court in Iowa on December 13, 2017.

The two agencies have not yet responded to the complaint. The city alleges they broke the law by acknowledging the tribe's history, which includes being forced to leave its homelands in present-day Iowa and Nebraska and being terminated by the federal government

The tribe regained federal recognition in 1990 and eventually acquired the 4.8-acre parcel in Carter Lake. The land can be used for a casino because of the tribe's "restored" status, the NIGC determined last November.

Generally, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act bars gaming on land acquired after 1988. Section 20 of the law contains an exception for tribes with "restored" lands.

Read More on the Story:
Ponca Tribe 'moving forward' on Carter Lake casino despite legal challenge (The Omaha World-Herald March 5, 2018)

National Indian Gaming Commission Documents:
November 14, 2017 Decision | December 31, 2007 Decision

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Nebraska v. Department of Interior (October 19, 2010)

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