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

Tribes remain at odds over new gaming developments in Oregon

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe continues to oppose plans by the Coquille Tribe to open a new casino in Oregon.

According to Cow Creek, approval of the Class II facility would be unprecedented. "Every tribe would be looking at the very edge of the envelope and pushing it," CEO Michael Rondeau told Willamette Week. "You'd see casinos up and down I-5."

The Coquilles see things differently. The Cedars at Bear Creek would be located within the tribe's service area, as it was defined by an act of Congress signed into law by the late former president George H.W. Bush.

"The tribe has the legal right to pursue economic development in our five-county service area—and that's what we're doing," Judy Duffy-Metcalf, CEO of the Coquille Economic Development Council, told Willamette Week.

But the tribe can't do much for now because the Bureau of Indian Affairs has yet to advance the project. An environmental impact statement has yet to be published -- almost four years after the process began during the Obama administration.

The Willamette Week suggests that a decision could come any day but there is nothing that requires the BIA to take action. The website that was hosting documents for the environmental impact statement is in fact no longer active.

The new facility 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 was restored to federal recognition through the Coquille Restoration Act in 1989. The law requires the BIA to place up to 1,000 acres in trust in the tribe's service area.

Read More on the Story
A Looming Federal Decision Could Transform Tribal Gaming in Oregon. The Lottery Has Its Fingers Crossed. (Willamette Week December 5, 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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