Judge hears opening statements of controversial Broken Arrow casino case

Opening statements were given Wednesday in the controversial case involving a casino in the town of Broken Arrow.

The state attorney general has sued the Kialegee Tribal Town in federal court, asking for an injunction to halt building at the site, located at 111th and South 129th East Avenue.

The AG says the new Red Clay Casino violates the State Gaming Compact and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, but the tribe's attorneys say the injunction is illegal, narrowly tailored and stops all development on the property.

Gary Anderson, a University of Oklahoma history professor, was the only witness to take the stand Wednesday. Specializing in Native American history, Anderson represents the state in the case.

Anderson claims Kialegee is a band, not a tribe, therefore Kialegee doesn't have as many rights.

The land in question is allotted to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, of which the Kialegee is a branch, according to the tribe's attorneys.

But the Kialegee became an independent tribe in 1941 and there's nothing in its constitution about sharing land.

The state says gaming cannot occur on Indian land not belonging to the exercising tribe. It also maintains the Bureau of Indian Affairs hasn't approved the lease.

The tribe's attorneys say because of the relationship between the Kialegee Tribal Town and the Creek Nation, the Kialegees have the right to open a casino on the property.

"I'm a Kialegee member," said Esther Gee, in attendance for Wednesday's court proceedings. "The historian was wrong."

Gee says she is shocked to hear her tribe doesn't have land and thinks the tribes' closeness should apply to this case. "We vote in both elections," she said.

The Kialegee tribe's officials say Broken Arrow city officials were made aware of the casino months before development began on the land but they never offered any objections.

In the months since, many Broken Arrow residents, as well as city and state lawmakers, have been outspoken about their disapproval with the casino.

Despite the controversy, crews have continued construction on the casino, which the tribe says could be open for gaming in a matter of months.

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