PARK CITY, Kansas — Ten years after a tribal casino was first proposed in Park City, the federal government has denied the application.
The United States Department of the Interior has rejected a request by the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma to take land owned by the tribe in Park City into a trust, that would have allowed a casino to be built on the plot.
The decision was announced in a letter to the tribe on Friday. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office made the announcement Monday.
It did not come as a surprise to city leaders, including City Administrator, Jack Whitson.
“It’s been quite evident that the Department of the Interior and the state of Kansas did not want this to happen,” said Whitson. “We could have 1,500 new jobs, plus construction, and multi-million dollars worth of investment in this region,” he continued.
The primary reason for the rejection, as named in the department’s letter, is because the tribe reportedly paid for the Park City land parcel using ‘co-mingled funds.’
Something Whitson said was a bit of a stretch.
“As long as they used the money to buy land… That’s the important issue here. Not whether or not they mixed it up,” argued Whitson.
The chief of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, Bill Friendly, spoke with KSN News about his reaction to Friday’s decision.
“We’re disappointed in the Interior’s decision,” said Friendly. “It turned into a very political decision. The State of Kansas, along with their gaming partner, Boyd Gaming in Mulvane, spent several hundred thousand dollars in lobbyists.”
Lawmakers across Kansas agree that the decision may be a political one.
“I could see it on the grounds of not believing in gambling and that, for those people I believe they have a good argument, when they make that argument but, when a state creates a casino [Kansas Star Casino], they do not have that argument anymore,” said Whitson, “and when they start obviously protecting that casino, to me that’s not playing square.”
“It’s pretty evident that when he [Kansas Attorney General, Derek Schmidt] means he is looking after the interest of Kansas, he is looking after the interest of Kansas Star,” continued Whitson.
“The agreements the state’s put in place with the firms that they’re operating with – the problem I have with it is that I believe that Kansas is the only state that’s adopted state-wide casino gambling and the people never had a vote, and I think that’s wrong,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.
Regardless of Monday’s announcement, Chief Friendly tells KSN this fight isn’t over.
“We’re going to continue to pursue all legal and regulatory avenues that are available to have the land taken into trust, and we’re still confident that we’re gonna gain Sedgwick County,” continued Friendly.
The Wyandotte Chief said the tribe will immediately appeal the department’s decision. It has 30 days to do so. As outlined in the letter of rejection, the tribe is instructed to “address the accounting issues raised by the state” before resubmitting an application.
Lawmakers tell KSN the fight could be forced to end in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This is going to be a long distance, long duration, legal process regardless of what the ultimate outcome is,” said Sedgwick Co. Commissioner Peterjohn.
According to legal documents, the state of Kansas has submitted multiple letters to the department stating its opposition to the Park City parcel. The state’s comment include arguments regarding:
- The scope of the Secretary’s authority under the act
- The gaming eligibility of the Park City parcel, and
- The sufficiency of the Shriner Tract accounting.
To read the U.S. Department of the Interior’s letter to the tribe in its entirety, click here.