Oklahoma based Indian tribe opens contested casino in downtown Kansas City, Kan.

Thursday, August 28th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ An Oklahoma-based Indian tribe opened a cramped downtown casino Thursday despite the state's opposition to a casino run by an out-of-state tribe and any expansion of gambling in Kansas.

The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma made no public announcement about an opening date for the casino, located in a former Masonic Hall next to an old tribal cemetery. The area is part of the tribe's historical territory.

The Wyandotte 7th Street Casino opened at 9 a.m. and was filled with customers within an hour.

The casino, with about 150 machines and only room for one person to walk down the aisles at a time, is wedged between office buildings, across from City Hall and near the Robert J. Dole federal courthouse.

The state has opposed letting the tribe open the casino, saying that it was protecting the interests of four Indian tribes based in Kansas from an out-of-state tribe. The Legislature also has generally opposed any expansion of gambling in the state.

The Interior Department ruled earlier this year that the tribe's downtown land was eligible for federally licensed Class II gambling activities _ a status that doesn't require further approval by state or local governments. Class II Indian gambling includes bingo and ``pull tab'' games that look and play like slot machines.

State officials have sued in federal court seeking to overturn that decision.

The city has long supported the Oklahoma tribe's effort to build a Kansas casino, but not in its current downtown location.

The tribe for years has used the threat of opening a downtown Class II casino as leverage to force approval of its preferred plan: a Class III casino and resort hotel near Kansas Speedway. Class III gambling permits slots and table games like blackjack and craps.

The Kansas Legislature earlier this year refused to approve a deal where the tribe would abandon the downtown casino bid for the speedway location.

Four Indian tribes own casinos in Kansas: the Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, Iowa and Prairie Band Potawatomi. Their casinos are all on reservations in the northeastern part of the state.

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