Work to build a casino in Broken Arrow continued Wednesday, despite the City of Broken Arrow deciding to send a "cease and desist" letter to the Kialagee Tribal Town that is behind the project.
The Red Clay Casino could soon rise on a spot near Olive Avenue (129th E. Ave.) and Florence Street (111th St.) in Broken Arrow. But people in the area are fighting the casino's construction out of concern it will disrupt their quiet community, drastically increase traffic in the area, and bring problems with crime and drunk driving to the area.
When the Cherokee Nation began building its casino in Catoosa in the 1990s people there had similar concerns. But, now that the Hard Rock Casino has been around for awhile, Catoosa residents say people in Broken Arrow will have less to worry about than they think.
"It's been good," Catoosa resident Phyllis Madison said. "I have no problem with it. It's been good for the community. We didn't have a lot of these hotels or restaurants before the casino came in."
"We really don't see any effect from it at all," fellow Catoosa resident Elleny Morrison said. "Just maybe more business brought into the community, as far as we can see."
Catoosa Police Chief Kevin McKim says he hasn't seen any more of a criminal element. "We haven't seen any additional criminal activity than you would when you have a retail outlet."
One of the biggest concerns in Broken Arrow is over the fact the Broken Arrow Public School district recently bought a plot of land to build the new Indian Springs Elementary School, the property is only half a mile down the road from the casino site. Parents in the area are worried about having a casino so close to their children.
But in Catoosa, the Hard Rock Casino is just a few hundred yards away from Catoosa High School and Wells Middle School. There are also three elementary schools within a mile and a half of the casino. Chief McKim says the casino has caused no problems for any of them.
Madison says whether there's a school close by or not, building a casino won't cause as many problems as parents in Broken Arrow are expecting.
"There's no concern," she said. "The drunk drivers are out there day or night. It makes no difference if there's a casino there or if there's not."
McKim says part of the reason Catoosa has not had many problems with the Hard Rock Casino is that the Cherokee Nation Marshals Service does an excellent job of policing its property and eliminating problems before they start, or at least before they spill out into the city.
"I can understand their concern," McKim said. "But as long as the casino will police up their entity inside their casino, it shouldn't be a problem."