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Arkansas Mayor Won't Support Casino

7 July 2006

FORT SMITH, Arkansas – As reported by the Fort Smith Times Record: "Fort Smith Mayor Ray Baker said Thursday he is "deeply concerned" about a proposed riverfront casino.

"The United Keetoowah Band has purchased 10 acres north of the River Park events building along the Arkansas River where the tribe wants to build a casino.

"The tribe has made application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in trust, which must be granted by the BIA before the tribe could seek permission from the National Indian Gaming Commission to operate a casino.

"During an anti-gambling rally at the River Park events building on Thursday, Baker called on The Westphal Group investment company, which sold the property to the Keetoowah Band, to move in other directions of development.

"…Baker said he was not speaking for the city board of directors or the city administration, but out of personal concern as mayor.

"Dr. J.P. Bell, a member of The Friends of Fort Smith, told those in attendance at the rally that Bennie Westphal, chief executive officer of The Westphal Group investment company said he wouldn't bring a casino to Fort Smith if local residents oppose it.

"…But so far, Westphal said he feels a majority favors the casino based on his personal interactions and a poll conducted by a local television station that he said shows Fort Smith residents favor the casino by a 2-to-1 margin…"

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