Chickasaw casino near Terral gets green light from federal appellate court
The Chickasaw Nation's Riverstar Casino near Terral can continue to operate, thanks to a federal appellate court ruling issued Friday.
The Riverstar Casino opened March 1 over the legal protests of the Comanche Nation, which operates a casino of its own about 45 miles away.
Attorneys for the Comanche Nation argued that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior erred when he allowed land near Terral to be placed in trust for use as a Chickasaw casino. They contended the action was invalid because the federal agency failed to determine that the Chickasaw Nation "exercised governmental authority" over the property before the acquisition.
Oklahoma City federal judge Joe Heaton rejected that argument in November 2017 and refused to issue an injunction to block the casino from opening.
Heaton noted the Interior secretary's decision was based on a determination that the Chickasaw Nation did not have a reservation but that the proposed site was within the boundaries of its former reservation and could therefore be taken into trust as an "on-reservation" acquisition under the Indian Reorganization Act and could be used for gaming.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld Heaton's decision Friday.
“We are pleased the court of appeals agreed with our original assessment," said Stephen Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation.
"As we have said, the Comanche Nation's lawsuit fails to raise any factual or legal point of merit. With this appeal completed, we are confident the district court will now proceed with dismissal of the entire case, not just the Comanche motion for preliminary injunction.”
Multiple calls seeking comment from the Comanche Nation went unanswered Friday.
The Riverstar Casino is located along U.S. Highway 81 in Jefferson County, just north of the Oklahoma-Texas border. It offers more than 600 electronic games and six card tables, as well as a bar, restaurant and gift shop, a casino official said.