Tribe seeks status for 5 tracts

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Osage Nation officials are apparently doubling down with efforts to procure federal trust status on five tracts of land designated for Osage Casino developments.

The properties include 125.48 acres on the south side of U.S. Highway 60 across from Bartlesville Municipal Airport, as well as a 63.1-acre tract just east of Pawhuska’s East Main Street terminus at the intersection of Highways 60/99 and 11. Both of those land parcels have been suspected of being future casino locations since the tribe acquired them approximately three years ago.

Tribal officials still are not revealing any specific plans the five tracts other than to say that they could be used “to expand Osage Casino properties.” That usage might be for “gaming and non-gaming purposes,” added the officials, who requested anonymity.

The other three parcels include two tracts adjacent to the Osage Casino-Tulsa location — one which lies on the north side of the casino and the other (formerly Tulsa International Airport property) that is further to the west. An additional 53-acre tract adjoins the main Osage Casino-Skiatook location.

Legislation was recently passed by the ON Congress with the apparent aim of getting these fee properties certified as federal trust land. A separate bill calls for a $400,000 allocation of tribal funds for completing the land-to-trust process.

Earlier this year, a high-ranking tribal official was heard to tell ON Congressional members that the tribe should take advantage of a “window of opportunity” which he said currently exists through the Obama Administration. He illustrated his point by reminding the tribal delegates that the previous administration had been far more reluctant to grant trust status on Indian land which was going to be used for gambling purposes.

Osage officials indicated that the land-into-trust expenses include environmental consultant costs, site assessments, title, abstracting and survey work, as well as application fees. Environmental assessments could further add costs to the application process.