Quapaw chairman denies casino problems

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QUAPAW, Okla. - The National Indian Gaming Commission is currently "... conducting an inquiry into the management of the Quapaw Casino concerning the possible management of the casino without an approved contract," according to a letter sent by the NIGC's Regional Director Tim Harper to Quapaw Chairman John Berrey. Berrey was also instructed to turn over 23 documents to the commission for review.

The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is currently going through the lengthy process of getting federal approval for their casino. They have turned to a third party, Oklahoma Management, owned by Marc Dunn, to operate the casino while they wait for approval. "There's been an inquiry into the management practices of Oklahoma Management," Berrey said. "It's not even an investigation. There's a time period after you submit your management contract for approval where you are in a state of limbo. We are under a consulting agreement and the NIGC is just trying to make sure that what we are doing is what we are supposed to be doing. I don't see it as that big of a deal, but some people do. We just want to make sure that we're doing it right, and we think we are. We were told twice that the interest is not pointed so much toward the tribe as it is toward Oklahoma Management, and we believe Oklahoma Management has done what they said they should do. We're anxious to clear the air and get it over with."

The chairman does not see the inquiry as implying any wrongdoing. "Basically, this issue is whether Mr. Dunn is managing or consulting, that's what it comes down to," Berrey said. When asked about reports of Dunn's company getting more money from the casino than the Quapaw people, $4.5 million compared to $2.5 million, Berrey said "I don't know where they got that, it's ridiculous. It's kind of like a car wreck story, but there's no wreck here."

Berrey also talked about rumors surrounding Rick Smith, who works for Oklahoma Management. Smith worked at the Quapaw Casino and resigned earlier this summer. "The press has implied that Rick Smith left because he was requested to do a background check," Berrey said. "Rick Smith has had a background check, he's worked with several gaming operations for different tribes, and you can't do those sorts of things without a background check. He left because there was a personality conflict with him and (Kugee) Supernaw."

Supernaw was the head of the tribe's gaming commission, but was let go shortly after the commission announced that they would conduct an audit. Berrey says the two events are not connected. "Supernaw is saying that he was fired when he wasn't fired, he was never hired. Supernaw was appointed to a subcommittee, our gaming commission. Supernaw had the inability to keep proprietary information confidential; that's entirely the issue. It's not an issue of the activity of that gaming commission, we wholly support that, and we have no problem with it. We just want them to do what they have to do with some confidentiality to protect our market in Ottawa County. I was the one who nominated Supernaw, and I had several tribal complaints. You learn."

The chairman says that the tribe will cooperate with the NIGC. "We're not going to fight them in any way, shape, or form," Berrey said. "The truth will set us free."