The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe owns and operates the Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon. Photo: Maya West

Cow Creek Band no longer pursuing gaming partnership with Oregon

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe is no longer pursuing a gaming partnership with the state of Oregon, a tribal official said in response to a news report that raised questions about the new arrangement.

The tribe was looking to bring Oregon Lottery products, including scratch tickets, jackpot games and keno, into one of its travel centers. But CEO Michael Rondeau said the deal was off the table.

"For a variety of reasons those preliminary conversations ended and the tribe is not pursuing any such effort," Rondeau said in a statement posted by OpenTheBooks.Com.

Rondeau response came after The Washington Times first reported about the unique partnership. If the pilot project turned out to be successful, other tribes would have been able to participate, a spokesperson for Gov. Kate Brown (D), who is running for her first full term in office, told the paper.

But word of the deal was news to Coquille Tribe, whose own gaming efforts are facing opposition at the state level, including from Brown. The Cow Creek Band is also opposed -- an issue Rondeau made a point of bringing up in his statement to the media.

"All we're asking for is a fair process," Coquille Chairperson Brenda Meade told KPIC. "That is all we've been asking for."

The Coquille Tribe owns and operates The Mill Casino in North Bay, Oregon. The tribe is seeking federal approval to open another facility in Medford. Photo: Rick Obst

Meade's tribe is trying to open a new Class II gaming facility that would only be able to offer bingo and electronic forms of bingo. On the other hand, the Cow Creek Band, had it gone through with the state partnership, would essentially be adding Class III games to its travel center.

The tribe began the land-into-trust process more than three years ago. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs hasn't taken significant action beyond a scoping report that was released in June 2015.

The Cedars at Bear Creek would be located in the city of Medford. The Cow Creek Band operates the Seven Feathers Casino Resort, a more lucrative Class III facility, in Canyonville, about an hour away.

According to data released in 2016, Seven Feathers would take a 13.2 percent hit in revenues once the Coquille facility opens.

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 Cedars at Bear Creek site is about 170 miles from the Mill Casino, the tribe's Class III facility in North Bend.

Brown previously served as lieutenant governor of Oregon. She became governor in 2015, when John Kitzhaber stepped down amid conflict of interest and corruption allegations involving his spouse.

The Cow Creek Band has donated $85,000 to Brown since 2015, The Washington Times reported.

Read More on the Story
Medford casino fight gets political (KOBI October 30, 2018)
Tribe responds to article about campaign donations and casino support (KPIC October 31, 2018)

Also Today
Adam Andrzejewski: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Reaped $2.6M In Campaign Cash From 557 State Vendors Who Pocketed $4.4B (Forbes October 31, 2018)

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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