BIA moves forward with Coquille Tribe off-reservation casino bid

This aerial photo shows the location of the Coquille Tribe's proposed off-reservation casino in Medford, Oregon. The bowling alley, with red awnings, will be converted into a casino. Image from Google Maps

The Coquille Tribe is getting closer to an off-reservation casino in Oregon.

The tribe submitted a land-into-trust application to use a 2.4-acre site in Medford for a Class II facility. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has finally announced its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the project.

"The tribe has submitted an application to the BIA requesting that approximately 2.4 acres of land be transferred from fee to trust status, upon which the tribe would renovate an existing bowling alley to convert it into a gaming facility," a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday stated.

As part of the process, the BIA will hold a scoping meeting in Medford on February 3. The agency will then issue a draft EIS -- and, eventually, a final EIS -- but there is no timeline for a decision.

Generally, land placed in trust after 1988 can't be used for gaming. The Coquilles, however, are seeking an exception in Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that applies to tribes that were restored to federal recognition.

The tribe gained recognition through the Coquille Restoration Act in 1989. The law requires the BIA to place up to 1,000 acres in trust.

The tribe already operates the Mill Casino, a Class III facility. Medford is about 186 miles away.

Federal Register Notice:
Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Coquille Indian Tribe Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, City of Medford, Jackson County, Oregon (January 15, 2015)

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