Oregon tribes continue battle over new Class II gaming facility

Artist's rendering of the Cedars at Bear Creek in Medford, Oregon. Image from Coquille EIS

A proposal for a modest off-reservation Class II facility has sparked a small war among two tribes in Oregon.

The Coquille Tribe wants to build the Cedars at Bear Creek on a 2.4-acre site in Medford. The project has the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe worried about the future of its Seven Feathers Casino Resort, a Class III facility about an hour away.

The Cow Creek Band laid off 93 people at the casino last month. The tribe attributed it to the economy and the Coquille proposal.

The Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon. Photo from Facebook

“It was as if someone came to our house and robbed our cupboards and now they’re inviting us to dinner," Michael Rondeau, the Cow Creek's CEO, told Jefferson Public Radio.

The Coquilles, naturally, do not see the situation in the same light. They believe the facility will boost the local economy by creating jobs and generating revenues.

“We operate our housing programs together, our health centers," Chairwoman Brenda Meade told JPR. "We are doing amazing things with diabetes prevention programs for Indian people. We disagree on this one economic development project.”

Artist's rendering of the Three Rivers Casino in Coos Bay, Oregon. Image from CTCLUSI

The Coquilles note that their Mill Casino, a Class III facility in North Bend, is facing competition too. Next month, the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians will be opening the Three Rivers Casino Coos Bay, a Class II facility, less than three miles away.

"We think that’s going to be good for the community," Judy Metcalf, the Coquille Tribe's CEO told JPR of the new project. "It’s going to make us do a better job at the service that we provide. And ultimately it gives the consumer a better choice.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is preparing an environmental impact statement for the new casino. Comments are being accepted until March 19 and the agency has invited local governments to be a part of the land-into-trust process.

Site plan for the proposed Cedars at Bear Creek in Medford, Oregon. Image from Coquille EIS

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.

Get the Story:
Medford Casino Proposal May Hinge On Arcane Points Of Law (Jefferson Public Radio 3/11)
Medford & Jackson County are Cooperating Agencies with BIA on Casino Proposal (KAJO 3/11)
Medford and Jackson County officials get more say on casino proposal (The Klamah Falls Herald and News 3/11)
Medford Casino Proposal Pits Tribe Against Tribe (Jefferson Public Radio 3/10)
Medford's Casino Quandry (Jefferson Public Radio 3/10)

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)

Related Stories
Tribes in Oregon planning to open Class II gaming facility in April (02/25)
Coquille Tribe not worried about competition from a new casino (02/06)
BIA holds public hearing on Coquille Tribe off-reservation casino (2/4)
Cow Creek Band ties casino layoffs to economy and rival tribe (2/3)
Oregon tribe on track to open new gaming facility in late spring (01/12)

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