BROKEN ARROW – An array of elected officials, school leaders and ministers publicly announced their opposition to a planned Indian casino at a rally that nearly filled the 1,300-seat sanctuary of a local church Thursday night.
Congressman John Sullivan told those gathered that he has a meeting planned with officials from the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Wednesday. At that meeting he hopes to have numerous legal questions answered regarding the legality of gaming operations on Muscogee (Creek) Nation allotted land that is owned by two sisters at the southwest corner of Olive Avenue (129th East Avenue) and Florence Street (111th Street).
“You are the ones making a difference here. It isn’t us,” he told the audience. “You are the backbone of this movement.”
Sullivan urged more people to sign a petition – which more than 4,250 people have already signed – against the casino’s construction, and he said he will take back to Washington a video of the evening’s event, at which more than 30 officials went on the record as opposing the casino. Thunderous applause followed each of the officials’ statements.
Among the officials there were the entire Broken Arrow City Council, including Mayor Mike Lester; Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett; Tulsa County Commissioners John Smaligo and Fred Perry; a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe; and numerous state senators and representatives, ministers and school officials.
In the long-term, Sullivan said, he is considering drafting legislation. “We want to make sure we don’t allow casinos to be built next to neighborhoods, churches and schools,” he said. “We have to fight, fight, fight – get everyone involved – because if we don’t, it will set a precedent” for expanded gaming.
“There’s allotted land all over our community,” he said. “It’s going to open a Pandora’s box all across our great community, all across our great state.”
The event was organized by the Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming and was hosted by The Assembly at Broken Arrow, an Assemblies of God congregation.
Jared Cawley, a spokesman for Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming, said he doesn’t think the casino developers’ lease is valid because it hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
He said allotted or restricted lands cannot be sold, leased, mortgaged or built upon without that agency’s approval because it has a duty to protect the financial interests of the tribe or individual.
Tulsa County land records show that the lease was signed by Shane Rolls of Golden Canyon Partners, manager of Florence Development Partners LLC, the tenant; Marcella Giles and her sister Wynema Capps, the land owners; and Tiger Hobia, the mekko, or town king, of the Kialegee Tribal Town, a federally-recognized tribe that is also part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
In addition, the National Indian Gaming Commission has not made a determination on whether the land if eligible for gaming.
“It’s a bit disingenuous for the developer to now say we’ve got all the approval we need when as far back as 2006 and as recently as September the NIGC said … there has been no determination for Indian gaming on those lands,” Cawley said.
Cawley said the residents group would consider filing for a court injunction or a civil suit if efforts with the National Indian Gaming Commission fail.
County, city officials show their opposition
The Tulsa County commissioners approved a resolution Thursday expressing their opposition to the Kialegees’ planned casino in Broken Arrow.
The resolution states, in part, that the commissioners respectfully request “that the honorable leadership of the Kialegee Tribal Town select a more suitable location within its jurisdiction.”
The Tulsa County commissioners are Republicans Fred Perry and John Smaligo and Democrat Karen Keith.
In their resolution, the commissioners cite several reasons for opposing the project, including their belief “that the citizens of Broken Arrow would be well served by a higher and better use of the property in question, more in keeping with the zoning and planning conventions of the community.”
Also on Thursday, the Tulsa City Council approved a resolution supporting Broken Arrow’s opposition to the casino.
Councilor Phil Lakin said Broken Arrow ” is the first among us to carry the torch to oppose this thing being dubbed as ‘casino shopping.’ ”
Rumors are swirling that a casino is being considered for Indian land in Lakin’s south Tulsa district at 111th Street and Yale Avenue, just four miles from the Broken Arrow site.
By Kevin Canfield and P.J. Lassek of the Tulsa World
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