Oregon Governor Kate Brown has expressed her reservations on the proposal by Coquille Indian Tribe to open a second casino in the state in a recent letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
In a statement, Gov. Brown said,
I believe that the state should as a matter of policy resist the building of additional casinos because state support for even a single, modest additional casino is likely to lead to significant efforts to expand gaming across Oregon to the detriment of the public welfare. I believe it is essential that the state ‘hold the line’ on the number of casinos within her borders whenever possible.
Brown however did acknowledge that the Coquille Indian Tribe would use the revenue generated from the second casino to benefit its members. But added that the proposed casino was relatively small, resulting in limited gambling services.
The tribe wants to convert an existing bowling facility and an adjacent site used formerly for a restaurant on Highway 99 in Medford into a casino with video gaming. According to gaming norms, a casino with only video gambling is classified as Class II gaming facility.
When a casino offers both video and card gaming it is categorized as a Class III gaming facility.
The Coquille current operates The Mill Casino, a Class III facility in North Bend. The tribe has asked the BIA to put the 2.42-acre property into a government trust apart from a nearby golf course. It has also requested the federal Office of Indian Gaming Management to grant it an exception to a rule that prohibits gaming on lands secured after October 1988.
The Coquille tribe is currently awaiting the draft environmental impact statement on the project from the BIA. Once that is released, a public comment period for the project will begin which will include a public hearing.
Brenda Meade, chairwoman of the Coquille tribe responded to the governor’s letter saying that she is surprised that it didn’t refer to the one-casino policy. The one tribe, one casino was policy suggested by former Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Meade added that the policy was never established in Oregon, indicating that it did not have any influence. The Siuslaw Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua opened a second casino in 2015 close to the Coquille tribe’s existing casino.
The Coquille’s second casino plans have been opposed by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indian Tribe, which operates the Seven Feathers in Canyonville as well as local government officials.
The Cow Creek lauded Gov. Brown’s letter saying that the Coquille tribe did not have any ancestral ties to the land in Medford and so it shouldn’t be handed over to the tribe.