Attorneys for the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma have filed paperwork applying for a license to run a casino in Pine Bluff.
The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is working to move property it owns just east of Little Rock into federal trust. Moving the land into federal trust would essentially turn the property into federal land held by the U.S. government in trust for the Quapaw Tribe.
There are provisions in federal law that might make it possible for the Quapaw to open gambling establishments on the property once it is moved into federal trust. Moreover, once the land goes into federal trust, the State of Arkansas, Pulaski County, and the City of Little Rock all lose most of their ability to tax or manage the property; how the property is developed or used becomes a matter that rests largely between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Quapaw Tribe.
Recently it was announced the Little Rock Port Authority–which is adjacent to the Quapaw Tribe’s property–is considering signing a memo of understanding with the tribe that, among other things, might effectively prevent the tribe from developing a casino on the property. However if the land is moved into federal trust, that memo arguably will not have any force of law.
The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has applied with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to have a 160-acre plot of land near the Little Rock Port Authority placed in a trust by the United States for tribal use, according to various news sources.
The Quapaw Tribe has owned the land for about two years. Its application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs would change the designation of the land and significantly affect local regulation and control of the property.
The federal government recognizes multiple types of tribal lands. Typically, these lands are held in “trust” by the federal government. Indian reservations are one example of this federal “trust” system: The federal government, technically, owns the lands, but they are designated for tribal use.
The laws and regulations are a little difficult to navigate, but under federal law, tribes may conduct gambling operations on many of these tribal lands held in trust by the federal government.