Deadline looms for proposed bingo hall in Shabbona

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT

The federal government has set an Oct. 1 deadline for all interested parties to submit documentation regarding a proposed gaming facility in Shabbona. The deadline was set after DeKalb County State's Attorney Ron Matekaitis sent a letter to the National Indian Gaming Commission in May requesting a clear determination from the federal government as to whether land owned by a Kansas-based Indian tribe is a reservation. The proposed 24-hour electronic bingo hall would be built on 128 acres the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation purchased for $8.8 million in April 2006. That land is part of 1,280 acres - which also includes much of Shabbona Lake State Park - given to Chief Shab-eh-nay in an 1829 treaty. The Potawatomi, descendants of Shab-eh-nay's band, claim their rights to the land were never extinguished, making the land a reservation. Others, including Matekaitis, aren't as sure. The county plans to submit its documents to the gaming commission within the next week or so, Matekaitis said. &#8220We are not satisfied that it has been established as a reservation,” Matekaitis said. Although the tribe has purchased the land it would like to build the bingo hall on, under federal law, ownership is not enough. An Indian gaming facility can be built only on land that the government recognizes as a reservation. If the bingo hall was built and then the land was determined not to be a reservation, the facility would have to close. The original deadline was in July, but it was extended to Oct. 1, Matekaitis said last week. Each party can submit information to assist the commission as it makes its decision. Interested parties will most likely include Matekaitis' office, the Illinois Attorney General's Office, the tribe and organizations like the DeKalb County Taxpayers Against the Casino. Each group will have 15 to 30 days after the Oct. 1 deadline to respond to the submissions of the other parties, Matekaitis said. Several telephone messages left Monday for acting tribal chairman Rey Kitchkumme were not returned by press time. Robert Purdy, a member of the DeKalb County Taxpayers Against the Casino, stressed the group would be opposed to a gaming facility no matter who was proposing it. &#8220None of our group has any hostility, antipathy, sexist or racist feelings toward the Indians,” he said. &#8220This is a question we think of misunderstanding on the Indians' part, that they have been told they have this right, and we think their history is wrong.” Members worry the surrounding communities will suffer because money will be &#8220sucked out of the community and spent in the casino,” Purdy said. If the Potawatomi land is recognized as sovereign, the tribe will need to work out a financial agreement that will provide it with police and fire protection and allow it to tap into sewer and water systems, since it will not be subject to property taxes. The DeKalb County Board in April agreed to re-enter negotiations with the Potawatomi, but not necessarily for a gaming facility. At the time of the agreement, County Administrator Ray Bockman characterized the negotiations as &#8220an agreement to see if an agreement can be reached.” The agreement holds the tribe responsible for paying the bills of the attorney representing the county in talks with the tribe. Several county officials - including Bockman, Matekaitis and an assistant state's attorney - have been negotiating with the tribe, but the county is &#8220not close to completing an agreement,” county board Chairwoman Ruth Anne Tobias said Saturday. She is not involved in the negotiations. &#8220Even if we were, and signed an agreement, if the gaming commission ruled against the tribe, the agreement would be null and void,” she added. The negotiating centers on an agreement of how the tribe and the county would work together on issues such as land use and police protection if the tribe has any type of presence in the county, Tobias said. That could be for gaming, a museum or a cultural center. &#8220If we don't get what we think is appropriate for the county, there will be no agreement,” Tobias said. &#8220If the tribe doesn't get what they think is appropriate, I guess they would not sign it or agree to it. I don't know.” Members of the DeKalb County Taxpayers Against the Casino plan to speak at Wednesday's county board meeting during the public comment time to ask the board to not negotiate at all with the tribe until the gaming commission makes its decision. The county board will meet at 7:30 p.m. at the DeKalb County Legislative Center, 200 N. Main St. in Sycamore. Chronicle Staff Writer Dana Herra contributed to this report. Kate Schott can be reached at --- On the Web County information about the proposed gaming facility in Shabbona:

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