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Federal Judge rejects plans for Carter Lake casino

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December 1, 2008

OMAHA - A federal judge ruled Friday that the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska cannot build a casino in Carter Lake, Iowa, because of an agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State of Iowa in 2003 took precedence.

The Ponca Tribe bought the five-acre land at Carter Lake in 1999 and transferred it into federal trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in February 2003. The BIA agreed with Iowa officials that the land would be used for non-gambling purposes. The tribe said they planned to build a health center.

However, in December 2007 the National Indian Gaming Commission approved an application from the tribe to build a casino on the site. The plans included 2,000 slot machines, 50 table games and a 150-room hotel.

This resulted in a lawsuit filed by the attorney generals for Nebraska and Iowa and joined by the city council of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The case was heard by Judge Charles Wolle of the Southern District of Iowa. In his ruling Friday he agreed with the plaintiffs and reversed the December 2007 decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to authorize a tribal casino. Judge Wolle said the NIGC does not have the authority to approve a casino on that land because the 2003 non-gambling agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State of Iowa takes precedence.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said in a statement Saturday, "We're very pleased with the U.S. District Court's decision. A casino in Carter Lake would have directly affected Nebraskans. The judge's ruling prohibiting gaming on the Carter Lake land is the best possible outcome."

No immediate comments were available from the Ponca Tribe or the National Indian Gaming Commission.

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