Wyandotte Nation's fight continues

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Judge allows lawsuit challenging legality of casino to reopen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The fight over the 7th Street Casino isn't over.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Rogers in Topeka on April 4 allowed Kansas to reopen a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation's downtown casino.

The casino opened in January despite the state's claims that the money the tribe used to buy the land wasn't allowed for such purposes, disqualifying its use for a casino.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October ruled that a legal challenge of the casino came after the land had been placed into trust by the federal government on behalf of the tribe, thereby insulating the government from the state's lawsuit and leaving the federal courts with no jurisdiction.

The three-judge panel agreed with the Justice Department and dismissed the case, but two of the three panel members recommended the state restart its legal challenge. Rogers agreed with those two judges, saying dismissal of the case was caused by judicial mistakes.

Mike Leitch, civil litigation chief for Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six, said the state isn't seeking to shut the casino down.

''Our action will be limited to the courtroom,'' he said.

The original litigation began 12 years ago, but was never resolved.

The nation opened a more limited casino on the site in 2004, housed in a series of mobile homes. That operation was raided and quickly closed by state and local law enforcement, claiming the tribe had no right to offer gaming on the property.

The tribe spent $20 million to renovate an old Masonic lodge that once housed the Scottish Rite Temple and dates back to 1906. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and the Wyandotte Nation bought it in 1996.

The tribe claims its purchase of the building and half-acre tract of land was proper, qualifying it for federally licensed casino activity.

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