|Two tribes with similar goals receive vastly different reactions
Eastern Shawnee gaining fans while UKB seeing opposition mount
Sam Lewin 3/14/2006
Good news for one Oklahoma tribe looking to open a gaming operation in another state, while another tribe with the same goal is running into a roadblock.
In the Ohio town of Massillon, a community of 35,000 people situated 50 miles south of Cleveland, municipal leaders heard a pitch from the Eastern Shawnee Tribe regarding a city/tribal agreement on a possible casino. Benefits to the town would include two-percent of all slot machines earnings, a number estimated to be between $12 and $14 million annually. That money would go to fund a host of city services including emergency crews, schools, roads and other infrastructure.
The tribe has already signed agreements with officials in the Ohio towns of Lordstown, Monroe and Botkins.
A partner in the project said that the Eastern Shawnee would only go where they are welcome.
“The tribe will not build a resort casino where one is not wanted,” Steve DiPietro told the Massillon City Council. “They don’t need to force a project like this on anyone. There are too many places that want a casino.”
That approach resonates with councilor Paul Manson.
“Like Steve DiPietro said, if the people are opposed to it [the tribe] won’t come. I think it’s a nice plan. We’ll have to talk it over. I’m receptive to any positive business development,” Manson said.
“We are still in the fact-finding portion if it, trying to get a read on how our constituents feel,” said councilor David K. McCune.
While reaction to a gambling parlor in Massillon appears to be at least somewhat positive, in Arkansas opposition to efforts by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees to build a casino in the town of Fort Smith is mounting. The tribe is hoping to partner with area businessman Bennie Westphal to construct a gaming operation with hundreds of rooms and the potential to generate over a thousand jobs. Even with the economic benefits, the tribe does not have the support of major Arkansas officials, including Governor Mike Huckabee, Congressman John Boozman and Senator Mark Pryor. Senator Blanche Lincoln is reported to still be undecided on the issue, a sentiment shared by at least one Fort Smith resident.
“I have mixed feelings,” Miranda Spears told the Native American Times by phone from Fort Smith. “It would be good for bringing in more jobs, but we already have enough casinos in this area. The Cherokee casino is right across the border.”
UKB chief George G. Wickliffe did not return a message left on his cell phone seeking comment, although assistant chief Charlie Locust previously said the tribe is asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to put reservation land in to trust to clear the way for the casino.
That comment rankled the state’s governor.
“We can’t understand how the feds would create a designation for a tribe not currently recognized in Arkansas for the ulterior purpose of bringing an illegal casino,” Huckabee said.
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