A federal judge issued an injunction to stop construction on the Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrow.Judge Greg Frizzell sided with the state to issue the injunction. The decision on whether the casino can open will still be up to the National Indian Gaming Commission. The injunction essentially just stops the Kialegees from opening the casino on Labor Day weekend, possibly before the NIGC has made a decision.
While the order does not end the Kialegees hopes to eventually open a casino on the site, it did provide some relief for nearby Broken Arrow residents.
"No more trucks are moving, no more dirt is moving, no more buildings going up is fantastic," Jared Cawley, co-founder of the group Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming (BACANG), said.
For months Cawley and BACANG members have fought to stop the casino from being built, claiming the Kialegee Tribal Town does not have jurisdiction to build because the casino site is actually Muscogee Creek Nation land.
"We felt we were being unheard," Cawley said. "But certainly those sentiments were heard today by the court. And [we are] certainly excited about where the process is going."
Ultimately, though, it will be up to the NIGC to determined if the Kialegees have shared jurisdiction over the land with the Muscogee Creek Nation, as Kialegee attorneys argued in court.
"After much discussion about the meaning of the shared jurisdiction, it looks like the judge's order largely avoided addressing that issue," Dennis Whittlesey, attorney for the Kialegees, said.
While the injunction is certainly a roadblock for the Kialegees, it's not the end of the road for the casino plans.
"There will be a trial on the merits at some point in the future," Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said. "But until that trial occurs and there's a resolution by the court, this injunction will stay in place and no construction can take place at the site."
"We are surprised, very surprised at this ruling," Whittlesey said.
But Whittlesey also said he plans to file an expedited appeal to the 10th Circuit Court within the next two weeks.
The judge's order also means construction can not continue even if the tribe decides to give up on the casino plans and build something else that's not gaming-related. If the tribe did shift its plans, it could ask the court to lift the injunction. Congressman John Sullivan issued the following statement about Friday's decision:
"I applaud Judge Frizzell’s strong ruling to stop this casino from moving forward – this is a big win for the Broken Arrow community. This decision reaffirms what I have said all along – opening a casino without approval is a violation of federal law. I want to thank state officials for bringing this case forward and making the same arguments in court that I have been hammering home to Obama Administration bureaucrats for the past six months."