The State of Iowa has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court to challenge the decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) that would allow the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to build a casino in Carter Lake, Iowa. Bob Brammer is a spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General.
Brammer says their main argument is that the agency made a mistake and should not have come to the decision, and did not follow the correct procedures. Brammer says one of the main contentions in the state’s case is the way the tribe represented how it would use the land. Brammer says the tribe had said several years earlier had promised that the land didn’t qualify for use as a casino, but would be used for a health clinic and other tribal services.
Brammer says the A-G’s office does not have an opinion on whether more gambling should be allowed in the state, it is simply acting on the legality of the decision involving the five acres in Carter Lake. Brammer says their dispute is with the Indian Gaming Commission and that the agency did not follow the correct procedures.
Ponca Tribe chairman, Larry Wright, says the move by the State of Iowa is an "unfortunate decision." Wright says the tribe believes the merits of the case looked at by the N-I-G-C are sound and the State of Iowa’s move will only delay a project "that will happen." "An we find it unfortunate that we couldn’t have more productive talks with Iowa," Wright says.
Wright says the tribe did nothing wrong in saying the land would be used for a clinic and then deciding to use it for a casino. Wright says there was nothing legally binding to prevent the tribe from reassessing the situation and deciding on a different path. He says it is true they changed their mind, but there is now a different administration involved in the tribe leadership, and that is not any different than changing a mayor or governor and having different leadership.
Wright says the State of Iowa has changed its mind on gambling issues. Wright says the Iowa required casinos had to be on a boat that floated for a certain time when gambling was first approved, and then they changed to allow them to be land-based. He says the state changed its mind, but the Ponca Tribe is being held to a different standard. Wright says the state should drop its legal challenge and begin dialogue with Tribal Council immediately.