WASHINGTON - Oklahoma Congressman John Sullivan introduced a bill Wednesday that would give local communities a voice in the casino approval process.
Sullivan, who is working to stop the Kialegee Tribal Town Casino from being built in Broken Arrow, introduced H.R. 4022, the Giving Local Communities a Voice in Tribal Gaming Act of 2012.
"What I am doing is very simple, I am giving local government officials and the people they represent a chance to have their voice heard before a casino can set up shop in their neighborhood," said Sullivan. "Right now, there is no formal avenue for them to express their concerns or have those concerns taken into consideration – look at what is happening with the Kialegee Tribal Town Casino, the people of Broken Arrow are outraged not to have a say about what goes on in their local community, and they should be."
The bill is designed to ensure that cities have a say in the approval or disapproval before any class III (casino) gaming activities can occur.
"My goal with this legislation is to ensure that situations like the Kialegee Tribal Town Casino never happen again," said Sullivan. "As I have said before, I am deeply concerned this precedent setting situation could lead to the opening of Pandora's box where Indian land can be leased by private contractors to open up casino's anywhere they please –regardless of the churches, schools and homes that may be right across the street. We cannot allow that to happen without ensuring all citizens within a community are given equal consideration under the law."
The bill would give communities 120 days to formally object to a proposed gaming site following the announcement of a proposed site or approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission or Department of Interior.
"Let me be clear, this legislation is not about stopping tribes from using gaming as an economic development tool," said Sullivan. "This is about formally preserving the long standing positive working relationship between tribes and local communities that we value in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the process the Kialegee Tribal Town has used to push for this casino site, against the strong objections of the community, has not been conducted in the open and transparent manner necessary to continue this longstanding positive relationship."