Attorney General Pruitt Signs Enforcement Agreement with United Keetoowah Band on Tahlequah Casino
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt Friday announced an enforcement agreement with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians that requires the tribe to pay $2 million in damages and secure federal acceptance of the land into trust by the end of July or cease gaming operations at the casino.
“This case sat dormant for more than five years waiting for federal action until we forced a resolution. I’m pleased we finally have an agreement that protects the rights of Oklahoma citizens and communities,” Pruitt said.
The Keetoowah tribe opened the casino in Tahlequah in 1986 before they received a determination from the federal government on whether the land was Indian land. Under state law, casinos on non-Indian land are illegal. In 2004, a state district judge issued a temporary injunction to prohibit enforcement of state gaming laws by state or local officials because of ongoing questions about whether the Keetoowah’s casino was on Indian land.
After the case was moved to federal court, a federal judge upheld the injunction and ruled in 2006 that the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) must make a more complete land determination before the case could be decided.
The case remained stalled at the NIGC until May 2011 when Attorney General Pruitt sent a letter to the NIGC, expressing concern over the long delay in issuing a determination and outlining the harm and cost to the state.
In response to the letter, the NIGC concluded in July that the land was not Indian land and therefore not eligible for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Under the settlement, the state and the tribe are jointly asking the federal court to lift the injunction.
The settlement also provides that if the federal government does not decide to take the land into trust by July 30, the Keetoowah must cease operating the casino.
NIGC Memorandum July 18 2011.pdf
NIGC Land Status Letter July 21 2011.pdf
Keetoowah Band Gaming Operation Letter 20110517.pdf
UKB Settlement 682012.pdf