WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. (AP) -- A 214-foot riverboat that traveled 28 days
to get to eastern Oklahoma may sit at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers port
even longer because of a dispute between its owners and an Indian tribe.
The plan for the riverboat is for owner Dockside Entertainment to turn
the vessel into a casino and operate it under an agreement with the Southern Cherokee Nation.
But the Tahlequah-based Cherokee Nation has said it will keep the boat
from operating in what the Oklahoma tribe considers its jurisdiction.
Cherokee Nation marshals were on hand in the area when the boat arrived
Towns along the river welcomed the boat's arrival, with area residents
braving the cold to snap photos of what could bring more than 400 jobs to
"Most people I've talked to said they wanted it to come," Webbers Falls
convenience store owner James Scott said.
Southern Cherokee Chief Gary Ridge believes that post-Civil War treaties
with the federal government give his tribe jurisdictional rights on the west
side of the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said no entity can operate
gaming on the river near Webbers Falls without a gaming permit from his
"They are entitled to have a boat on the river, it's just they can't conduct any gaming," Smith told the Muskogee Daily Phoenix on Wednesday. U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling has said he will look into jurisdictional
implications and respond appropriately.
Darrell Hardin, Dockside's chief of operations, said his company is "legally postured" to open the riverboat casino.
"We aren't taking anybody to court, but if that's where we end up ... If
we open, their (Cherokee Nation's) move would be to get an injunction,"
Hardin said. "Our move would be to get an injunction."
Once operational, the 48,000-square-foot, four-story riverboat would be
open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It would offer Class II gaming,
featuring electronic gaming machines based on bingo, Ridge has said.
But issues of jurisdiction and permits must be resolved first.
Corps officials are scheduled to meet with Ridge and Dockside Entertainment officials Friday to discuss a permit for the boat.
"We are not going to do anything until we talk to the Corps," said Johnny
Ferrell, Dockside's chief of security. "We're going to do everything we can
to make it right -- whatever they tell us is what we'll do."
Officials want to redecorate the riverboat inside and paint the exterior,
Ferrell said. Wall-to-wall mirrors, an atrium and a glass elevator that goes
down to the underwater floor are planned.
Renovation work inside the boat probably will proceed around the clock,
Gore Mayor Larry Pack was impressed after going on board the vessel.
"It's nice. I believe it will help our town," Pack said. "They say they're going to Tunica (Miss.) and spending their money, and they might as well spend it here."