Lincoln--Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson today joined the State of Iowa and the City of Council Bluffs in challenging the federal government’s November 2017 approval of a casino the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has proposed to build in Carter Lake, Iowa. The casino is proposed to be built on land which was taken into trust for the Tribe based, in part, on the Tribe’s representation in the early 2000s that the land would be used for a healthcare facility. Moreover, federal law limits the Tribe’s lands to Knox and Boyd Counties, Nebraska; both counties are more than a hundred miles away from Carter Lake.
Because of Carter Lake’s unique geographic situation relative to Nebraska, the negative effects of expanded gambling in Carter Lake will spill over into Omaha, Nebraska’s largest and most densely populated metropolitan area. Local Iowa law enforcement has already expressed a concern that it will be unable to handle the increased activity generated by the casino. Since one cannot travel to or from Carter Lake without traveling through Nebraska, this means that Carter Lake’s gambling problem will become Nebraska’s gambling problem.
This is the second time the issue has reached federal court. In 2007, the federal government issued its initial approval of the Tribe’s proposal. That decision was challenged by Nebraska, Iowa, and Council Bluffs, and was ultimately found to be incomplete. The courts remanded the issue back to federal tribal gaming regulators to perform a more thorough analysis. After pending for years, last fall the regulators issued an amended decision approving the casino. Despite having a second chance to consider the issue, the approval suffers from the same flaws raised by challengers in the 2007 case.
Council Bluffs already filed suit challenging the amended approval and the States of Iowa and Nebraska have requested permission to intervene as co-plaintiffs in that action. The case is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The federal government does not oppose the States’ intervention request, which is expected to be ruled on in the coming weeks.
Download the complaint here.