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Miami Nation told to wait on out-of-state casino

Indianz.Com Casino Stalker
Tracking casino proposals across Indian Country.
Leaders of the Miami Nation of Oklahoma will have to wait some more before learning whether they can cross state lines and open a casino in Kansas.

The tribe has been trying to assert control over a 35-acre parcel in Kansas known as the Maria Christiana Reserve. But legal and political battles have blocked the land from being used for gaming for more than a decade.

In the latest setback, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals told the tribe to wait for the National Indian Gaming Commission. A 12-page decision issued on Monday said it was too early to predict how the agency will act on a pending management contract for the casino.

"Congress has vested the authority to decide gaming contracts under the IGRA with the NIGC," Judge Monroe G. McKay wrote for the court.

The tribe was trying to throw out an Interior Department legal opinion issued by former Solicitor Bill Myers. Back in November 2002, he said the tribe's rights to the Kansas reserve were terminated by Congress when the tribe was forced to move to Oklahoma in the late 1800s.

"Congress clearly abrogated the tribe's jurisdiction," Myers wrote in the 18-page opinion.

Jurisdiction is one of two key requirements to engage in gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The first is whether the land where the gaming will take place is "Indian" land.

The Maria Christiana Reserve, despite being out of tribal hands for more than a century, has been treated as Indian land by Congress as recently as the 1980s. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has continued to process probates for heirs to the land.

The second requirement poses a bigger hurdle. Under IGRA, a tribe must exert governmental authority over the land where the gaming will take place unless the land is located within the boundaries of an existing reservation.

In the eyes of federal officials, the Miami Nation won't ever meet this requirement because Congress terminated the tribe's rights in Kansas. Only Congress can restore those rights, they argue.

Despite the difficulties in meeting both requirements, some members of Congress are attempting to amend IGRA to curb off-reservation gaming. Bills pending in the Senate and the House would prevent tribes from crossing states lines to open casinos.

Since IGRA was passed in 1988, no tribe has even won federal approval to open a casino in another state. But another Oklahoma tribe, the Wyandotte Nation, recently won a series of court rulings that pave the way for a casino in downtown Kansas City.

In the meantime, the landscape in Oklahoma has changed significantly. Some forms of Class III gaming have been legalized, giving tribes less of a reason to look for casinos in other states where slot machines and table games are already in place.

Oklahoma is now one of the biggest tribal casino markets, according to independent and federal reports. The casinos there took in more than $1.4 billion in 2005, an increase of 39 percent, the largest growth rate in the nation.

Court Decision:
Miami Nation v. USA (August 21, 2006)

NIGC Land Determination:
Miami Reserve (October 31, 2002)

Relevant Links:
Miami Nation -