Federal Judge Halts Broken Arrow Casino Construction
TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa federal judge Gregory Frizzell granted the state a preliminary injunction, halting construction of a casino in Broken Arrow.
Frizzell ruled against the Kialegee Tribal Town after a 3-day hearing. Attorneys for the Kialegees say they will appeal the decision.
Reading from a hand-written opinion, the judge said the sisters who own the land, who are members of the Muscogee Creek Nation, are not members of the Kialegee tribe, so the tribe does not have jurisdiction over the land. The judge agrees with the state that the Kialegees can't make a deal with a related tribe to open a casino on land that isn't theirs.
Frizzell also said the casino violates the Indian Gaming Compact and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Dennis Whittlesey, the lead attorney for the Kialegees, said he's surprised by the decision. He said he believes there will be a lot of anger in "Indian Country."
Luis Figueredo, an attorney from Miami, Florida who's one of the developers of the project, said he was stunned by the decision.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked for the preliminary injunction while his lawsuit against the Kialegees moves forward.
Oklahoma Congressman John Sullivan issued a statement Friday afternoon in response to the judge's ruling.
"I applaud Judge Frizzell's strong ruling to stop this casino from moving forward – this is a big win for the Broken Arrow community. This decision reaffirms what I have said all along – opening a casino without approval is a violation of federal law. I want to thank state officials for bringing this case forward and making the same arguments in court that I have been hammering home to Obama Administration bureaucrats for the past six months."
The state filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the 350-member Kialegees, saying the tribal town doesn't have the authority to build its Red Clay Casino on the land in Broken Arrow which is owned by two sisters who are members of the Muscogee Creek Nation.
The state's expert witness testified the Kialegees are only a band and therefore, in the eyes of the federal government, don't have the same rights as a full-fledged tribe. Attorneys for the Kialegees countered that by arguing there are many bands in the country currently operating casinos.
The Kialegees broke ground on the casino last year at the site in south Broken Arrow near the Creek Turnpike.
The Kialegees were hoping to have the casino open sometime around Labor Day.