Little Rock Port Authority Considers Memo of Understanding with Quapaw Tribe

Skyline_of_Little_Rock,_Arkansas_-_20050319The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is working to move property it owns just east of Little Rock into federal trust. Moving the land into federal trust would essentially turn the property into federal land held by the U.S. government in trust for the Quapaw Tribe.

There are provisions in federal law that might make it possible for the Quapaw to open gambling establishments on the property once it is moved into federal trust. Moreover, once the land goes into federal trust, the State of Arkansas, Pulaski County, and the City of Little Rock all lose most of their ability to tax or manage the property; how the property is developed or used becomes a matter that rests largely between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Quapaw Tribe.

Recently it was announced the Little Rock Port Authority–which is adjacent to the Quapaw Tribe’s property–is considering signing a memo of understanding with the tribe that, among other things, might effectively prevent the tribe from developing a casino on the property. However if the land is moved into federal trust, that memo arguably will not have any force of law.


Poverty Levels Above Average in AR, OK, MS Counties with Casinos

According a news story published by KARK this week, counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma that have casino-style gambling also have above-average percentages of their populations living below the poverty line.

According to KARK, 19% of Arkansans live below the poverty line, but in Garland County–where Oaklawn is located–22% of the population lives below the poverty line, and in Crittenden County–where Southland is located–the number is even higher, at 24%.

Correspondingly, in Oklahoma–where a number of Indian tribes operate casinos–17% of the state’s residents live below the poverty line. In Ottawa and Comanche counties, however, the percentages of residents living in poverty are much higher.

This corresponds with research we did on counties with casinos in Mississippi. We compared Arkansas counties on the west bank of the Mississippi River with Mississippi counties on the east bank of the Mississippi River.

We found that casino gambling does not appears to be effective at lifting communities out of poverty.

Here is a breakdown of our findings:

  • Thirty percent of the population of Tunica County, Mississippi, lives in poverty; across the river, in Lee County, Arkansas, 31.5% of the population lives in poverty–virtually a tie, despite the fact Tunica County has nine casinos.
  • In Coahoma County, Mississippi, 38% of the population lives in poverty. In neighboring Phillips County, Arkansas, 33.5% lives in poverty. Despite having a casino, Coahoma County has more impoverished residents than Phillips County does.
  • In Washington County, Mississippi, 29% of the population lives in poverty. Across the river, in Chicot County, Arkansas 33% of the population lives in poverty.

Here’s the kicker: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 22.7% of the population of Mississippi lives below the poverty line. That means even a place like Washington County, Mississippi–which has two casinos and the lowest poverty levels of any Mississippi county we reviewed–still has an inordinate number of citizens living below the poverty line.

If casino gambling is an economic boon, where’s the evidence? If gambling bolsters the local economy, provides jobs, generates revenue, and so forth as its proponents claim, why are the poverty levels so high in these counties that have casino-style gambling?

If we’re going to build a better economic future in our communities, casino gambling simply does not seem like the way to do it.

Land Bid May Bring Indian Gaming to Central Arkansas

The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has applied with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to have a 160-acre plot of land near the Little Rock Port Authority placed in a trust by the United States for tribal use, according to various news sources.

The Quapaw Tribe has owned the land for about two years. Its application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs would change the designation of the land and significantly affect local regulation and control of the property.

The federal government recognizes multiple types of tribal lands. Typically, these lands are held in “trust” by the federal government. Indian reservations are one example of this federal “trust” system: The federal government, technically, owns the lands, but they are designated for tribal use.

The laws and regulations are a little difficult to navigate, but under federal law, tribes may conduct gambling operations on many of these tribal lands held in trust by the federal government.