On Friday, the Quapaw Tribe announced that they were granted permission by the U.S. federal government to expand their Downstream Casino Resort into southeast Kansas.
"This federal opinion means that we can now go for it, and we will be the first to build and operate a casino in southeast Kansas," said Quapaw Chairman John Berrey. The casino is currently located near the Missouri border in Oklahoma. But the expansion would allow the tribe to develop the casino at least 25 miles from its current location in to Kansas.
In an opinion by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), the Quapaw Tribe’s land in Cherokee County, Kansas, qualifies for gaming pursuant to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988. The Quapaw Tribe is one of the few Indian tribes in the nation whose historic reservations were within the boundaries of more than one state. The tribe’s land in Kansas is within an area of its original 1833 reservation known as the "Quapaw Strip."
The NIGC determined that, due to its unique history, the Quapaw Tribe’s Kansas trust land, falls within a statutory exception under the IGRA for lands acquired within a tribe’s “last recognized reservation” in another state. This determination is purportedly the first of its kind by the NIGC, and underscores the unique jurisdictional history of the Quapaw Tribe.
Chairman Berrey said that Downstream had previously announced it would like to expand onto its Cherokee County property — a section that is currently part of its main parking lot — in order to improve the experience for Downstream’s customers and to provide more jobs.
"We are extremely pleased by the NIGC ruling," Berrey said. "We will seek a state compact on the same terms as other federally recognized tribes with gameable land in Kansas, but we're commencing work immediately and we plan to be open for business in 2015."
Estimated cost of the casino expansion into Kansas is $15 million, and it will provide about 25 new full time positions. The 40,000 square-foot expansion will connect to the existing Downstream building — crossing the state line between Kansas and Oklahoma — and will include 162 electronic gaming machines with room to expand its gaming. The expansion will also include a cigar lounge and a nightclub on the upper level.
In 2013, ICTMN reported that an independent study by KlasRobinson Q.E.D. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, said that Downstream casino had pumped more than $225 million into the economy annually since opening in July 2008. In the past half-decade, it has created more than 1,640 permanent jobs with total annual workers’ earnings of over $58 million.
Meanwhile Downstream will complete several other significant property expansions that, combined, will push the total development investment to about $400 million.
Downstream opened with an initial development investment of $301 million. It employs 1,100 people who come from all over the tri-state region.