A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier ruling that in 2007 threw out a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission to let the Ponca Indian Tribe of Nebraska build a casino in Carter Lake, just inside the Iowa border.
The ruling said the judge was wrong to completely reverse NIGC’s decision, and instead should have sent it back to the commission to look again at an agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the state of Iowa that the tribe signed in which it said that it didn’t intend to build a casino on the land if it was put into trust.
The ruling means that the NIGC can revisit the issue of allowing a casino on the land, if it chooses. The NIGC says it is studying the issue.
The tribe reacted last month by issuing the following statement: “Today’s reversal means the U.S. government will get another chance to look at all the facts and make a proper decision. The tribe remains confident its rights, including the right to change its mind about how to use its sovereign lands, will be recognized.”
The tribe originally purchased the five acres to be used for a health clinic. After the land was put into federal trust the tribe changed its mind and decided to apply to operate a casino with 2,000 slot machines, 50 table games and a 150-room hotel. The NIGC approved of the plan without looking at the agreement between the BIA and Iowa.