For the first time, those behind a controversial casino being built in Broken Arrow talked to reporters Tuesday.
Attorney Dennis Whittlesey, who represents the Kialegee Tribal Town and the developers of the casino, gave interviews at a private home in Jenks while members of the Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming opposition group protested outside.
Whittlesey said the controversy over the casino boils down to nothing more than a legal issue, and political opposition can't derail the casino plans. In other words, Whittlesey says the casino is going to be built, whether the people of Broken Arrow went it to or not.
Whittlesey says despite the widespread belief that the property on which the casino is being built is Muscogee Creek tribal land, that's not the case.
"The treaties preserved for each member of the Creek Confederacy, each tribal town, jurisdiction over all the lands of the Creek tribe, the Creek Nation," Whittlesey said.
He says a federal treaty established that the Kialegees and Muscogee Creeks share the land rights equally. The Creek's constitution, however, says the Kialegees must get permission to build a casino on Creek tribal land. But Whittlesey says, under the law, that's not the case.
"It's not required," he said. "We don't need their approval. And, frankly, they know it."
Meanwhile, Jared Cawley, a co-founder of BACANG and an attorney specializing in Indian law, says there are still plenty of legal problems with the casino development.
"There certainly hasn't been approval of any lease by the Department of Interior, which is required, and which I think the parties have acknowledged they need because they already tried to get it approved in state court," Cawley said.
But Whittlesey says the development only needs state or federal lease approval if the lease is for seven years or longer. The lease for the Red Clay Casino is for less than seven years, so he says no approval is needed.
"We're still waiting to hear a determination back from the National Indian Gaming Commission," Cawley said.
The determination Cawley is waiting on from the NIGC is whether Indian gaming can legally happen on the property.
"A land determination is an advisory opinion only," Whittlesey said. "It has no legal effect."
"We have a right to do gaming on this land until and unless it's been determined legally that we do not. An advisory opinion is not a legal determination."
Whittlesey says the NIGC can only stop gaming on the property by getting a court injunction, and that can only happen after gaming has commenced.
Still, Cawley is confident the casino can be stopped.
"Really, we think the National Indian Gaming Commission's on our side," Cawley said. "We think Department of Interior is on our side. And most importantly, we think the law is on our side in this one."
Whittlesey sees it differently, though.
"It will be built. There's no stopping construction. That's a given. And I don't know of a single legal action that the protesters or their counsel could file that would survive in court."
Whittlesey expects the casino to open for business in late March or early April. Click here
to see the new Red Clay Casino Web site.