Comanche Nation Sues Feds in Battle with Chickasaw Over Oklahoma Casino Development

Posted on: August 22, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: August 22, 2017, 02:42h.

The Comanche Nation is suing the US Department of the Interior for what it sees as preferential treatment given to a rival tribal casino operator in Oklahoma.

Comanche Nation Casino in Devol, Oklahoma
The Comanche Nation is claiming that their casino business is at a disadvantage competing against the bigger, more powerful Chickasaw Nation because of unfair treatment doled out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Image: i5 Design)

In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, the Comanche are alleging that a $10 million casino currently being built by the Chickasaw Nation on the Oklahoma border with Texas in Jefferson County relies on an unfair use of non-tribal land. The real estate in question is 50 miles Comanche’s Red River Hotel and Casino in Devol.

The Comanche believes that bigger, wealthier tribes such as the Chickasaw, who run the giant WinStar Casino serving the Dallas/Fort Worth population, have been too freely permitted to place off-reservation land into trust for casino construction, allowing them to gain a stranglehold on the regional gaming market at the expense of smaller tribes.

The Comanches also have reservation land less than ten miles from Terral, where they want to build another casino.

Oklahoma Exception

The Chickasaw Nation broke ground on the $10 million casino in May, having been granted the right to place the land in trust in January.

The Indian Gaming Regulation Act generally prohibits casinos on land that was placed in trust after its enactment in 1988, unless the lands are specifically in Oklahoma and “are within the boundaries of the Indian tribe’s former reservation,” or “are contiguous to other land held in trust or restricted status by the United States for the Indian tribe in Oklahoma.”

Thanks to this exception, the Chickasaw own more casinos than any other tribe in the US, having purchased great swathes of contiguous of land over the past two decades and successfully having much of it put in trust for the purposes of gaming.

Chickasaw Advantage

“The Comanche feel like they’ve played by the rules and their competition didn’t,” said Richard Grellner, an attorney for the Comanche Nation. “BIA officials moved the goal line so close to the Chickasaws and other privileged tribes in Oklahoma that they have needed only to fall into the end zone and open up shop, secure in the knowledge that the score was virtually certain to hold up without any replay.”

The Comanche believe that the DOI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have also allowed the Chickasaw to skirt environmental regulations in the construction of the Jefferson County casino.

“The project has thus far required creation of several ‘sewage lagoons’ so large they are visible from space,” claims the lawsuit.

“Based on our review, the complaint does not raise any factual or legal point of merit,” said Stephen Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, in an official statement responding to the charges.