Nebraska has joined a federal lawsuit attempting to block the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska from building a casino at Carter Lake.
Nebraska joins the state of Iowa and the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa in challenging the ruling of the National Indian Gaming Commission that gave the Ponca Tribe permission to build a casino there.
Carter Lake is a slice of Iowa on the western side of the Missouri River, next to Eppley Airfield in downtown Omaha.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says when the Ponca Tribe bought nearly five acres at Carter Lake, tribe leaders stated they wanted to build a medical clinic and pharmacy on the site.
“We don’t think this was the original intent of the restoration of the land to use it for gaming purposes,” Peterson tells Coby Mach, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Peterson says he worries if a casino is built, any gambling problems which arise will become the problem of the Omaha Police Department, not Carter Lake.
“But also, certainly gambling is a serious concern for law enforcement,” according to Peterson. “We have enough issues that we see from the gambling that takes place currently on facilities in Council Bluffs that are not on Indian land.”
The Ponca Tribe has been granted 1,500 acres spanning Boyd and Knox Counties in far northeastern Nebraska by the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The tribe applied for the casino license at Carter Lake in 2007. The National Indian Gaming Commission granted the license last year after being instructed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider whether the tribe was using the land as intended.
Nebraska does not allow casino gambling. Iowa does. A casino at Carter Lake would come the closest to establishing a casino in Nebraska. Council Bluffs worries a casino there would draw gamblers away from its casinos, across the Missouri River from Omaha.
Peterson says any problems arising from a casino at Carter Lake will become Nebraska’s headache, not Iowa’s.
“The law enforcement concerns, the gambling concerns associated with that will have a direct impact on the Omaha area and the state of Nebraska,” according to Peterson. “So, we can show to the court that we will experience harm if this is allowed to go through.”
Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Chairman Larry Wright, Jr. issued a statement about the legal challenge.
“We’re confident that the court will affirm the decision of the National Indian Gaming Commission that our Tribe has the right to conduct gaming on our sovereign land. Today’s announcement from the State of Nebraska will not stop the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska from developing our sovereign land in a way that allows us to better serve our members and provide a positive economic impact in the Carter Lake community.”
The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has 4,100 enrolled members, with nearly than half residing in the states of Iowa and Nebraska.
Click here for National Indian Gaming Commission ruling on Ponca Tribe Carter Lake proposal