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Any casino proposed for the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma's land in Pulaski County would likely need approval from the state of Arkansas, a tribe spokesman said Friday.

The tribe is working on getting 160 acres of Pulaski County it has purchased placed into a federal trust and will need its application for the trust approved by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Having the land placed in a trust would make it American Indian land, said Sean Harrison, a spokesman for the tribe. That's a common step for a tribe to take with land it has acquired because it exempts the land from local taxes and laws.

In Oklahoma, Harrison said, the tribe has established a compact with the state for running its casinos. That compact creates compact fees -- similar to taxes -- and the proceeds go to the state Education Department.

If the tribe pursued a casino in Arkansas, it would likely go through the same process, Harrison said, but that's unlikely to happen until the state changes its law on where gambling can take place.

"That compact would outline what games could be played, maybe what hours of operation, how much your fees would cost, what those fees would be used for," Harrison said. And the compact fee could go to wherever the state wanted it to, he said.

Currently, gambling in Arkansas is allowed only at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.

As of right now, the tribe has no specific plans for the land but plans to do something, Harrison said. He said tribal leaders are not saying "no" to a casino and that speculation that they plan to build a casino has flowed from that.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs in Nashville, Tenn., sent a letter to Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde earlier this month, asking for financial information about the property to "assess the impact of the removal of this property from the tax rolls." Hyde has 30 days to respond and add any other comments.

Hyde said Thursday that he wanted to consult with other city and county officials before sending any comments to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was out of the office Friday but said in an email that he hadn't heard anything more from anyone about the issue.

According to Pulaski County property records, the Quapaw Tribe purchased 80 acres of land in October 2012 just south of the Little Rock industrial port, east of Thibault Road, near Interstate 440, for $775,000.

The tribe purchased a second 80 acres of land in April 2013 in that same area for $597,000.

The tribe purchased the land after discovering graves that dated back hundreds of years to when the tribe was in Arkansas. The Quapaws, indigenous to Arkansas, were relocated to northeast Oklahoma in the mid-1800s.

Last year, the tribe learned that graves of blacks were also found on the land, likely dating back to before the Civil War.

The tribe has a loose partnership with the Preservation of African American Cemeteries group and is focused on maintaining the grave sites, Harrison said.

Metro on 03/21/2015

Print Headline: No casino plans yet, Oklahoma tribe says

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