The states of Iowa and Nebraska told a federal appeals court that the Ponca Tribe’s Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake is too far from its Nebraska land to qualify for a casino.
Does Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake Qualify as a Tribal Establishment?
The Ponca Tribe’s Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake, located at the Iowa-Nebraska border, should not have been approved by the federal government, the two states told a federal appeals court Tuesday. According to the appeal, the site purchased by the Ponca Tribe does not qualify as an Indian gaming establishment.
After a 12-year legal battle with the states of Iowa and Nebraska, The Prairie Flower Casino opened its doors in November 2018. The two states, which are joined in a suit by the City of Council Bluffs, argued that the tribe did not adhere to its initial plan to build a health care center when it acquired the Carter Lake plot in 1999.
2017’s Decision Gives Green Light to Carter Lake Casino
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) was in charge of determining whether this impacts the commission’s 2017 declaration that the Carter Lake plot meets the definition of ”restored lands”. The latter is a necessary condition for a tribal casino. After reviewing the case, in May 2019, the NIGC reaffirmed its decision that the parcel of land qualifies as ”restored lands”, as it is geographically a part of the tribe’s ancestral territory.
However, the plaintiffs told the appeals court that the property obtained by the Ponca Tribe in the Iowan city of Carter Lake does not qualify for a casino, as it is too far from its Nebraska land. According to Iowa Assistant Attorney General John Lundquist, the decision from Congress was in line with the federal Indian gaming law.
However, Mary Gabrielle Sprague, a lawyer for the US Justice Department argued it is clear that Congress intended to make an exception that gave green light to the casino, which is far beyond its historic reservation.
According to Lundquist, the key to resolving the issue lies in the following question:
“Does the Ponca Restoration Act establish geographic limitations on land acquisition that can be considered taken into trust as part of the restoration of land under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act’s so-called historic lands exception to its prohibition on gaming on lands acquired after the enactment date?”
The Justice Department’s attorney said the court will look at the issue more broadly.
Carter Lake is the only Iowa city that lies west of the Missouri River. The town derives its name from a former river bend, which was formed after a shift in the river following the 1877 flood. In 1892, the US Supreme Court ruled that Carter Lake belonged to Iowa.