Oregon Governor Tina Kotek sent a letter to the tribal chairs of the state on Thursday, outlining her views on tribal gambling and her opposition to the planned casino being built by the Coquille Tribe near Medford. Kotek sent a letter to all eight Oregon tribes expressing her support for a single casino per nation.
“Throughout my legislative career, during my campaign for this office, and since the start of my administration, I have been clear that I do not favor an expansion of gaming,” the letter said.
“This applies to Tribes and the State. Therefore, my policy on Tribal gaming facilities maintains the status quo from past governors, i.e., good faith bargaining between sovereign Tribes and the State on one gaming facility per Tribe on reservation land.”
The third governor, Kotek, has spoken out against the plan. Governor John Kitzhaber (2013) and Governor Kate Brown (2016) expressed their disapproval in letters.
“There is also the Coquille Tribe’s application to the Department of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs to have land in Medford taken into trust for the purpose of gaming (Class II). This proposal would not only lead to the expansion of gaming in that area but would create many more concerns about the expansion of gaming statewide,” Kotek said in the letter.
“With this letter, I wish to state my opposition to the Coquille Tribe’s Medford Casino Project.” Her letter arrives while the Coquille Tribe waits months, or maybe years, for a decision from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“We had hoped that this governor would respect federal law and the economic development rights of Indian tribes,” stated tribal chair Brenda Mae in a press statement issued by the Coquille nations. “But it’s no surprise that the boss of Oregon’s biggest gaming enterprise wants to lock out competition.”
Meade claims the Oregon Lottery seriously threatens the state’s casino industry since its video gaming empire may be accessed at convenience stores, bowling alleys, restaurants, lottery shops, and even online. She said that Kotek follows in the footsteps of previous governors who broke their word to the tribes.
“Her position amounts to a hostile act against Oregon tribes and tribal sovereignty,” Meade said. “Opposing our economic development opportunities amounts to an attack on our ability to provide health care, housing, education, and Elder assistance to our people.”
The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians own and operate two casinos in two counties in Oregon. If the federal government gives its OK, the Coquille Tribe will become the second in the country to operate two casinos more than 160 miles apart.
According to a press release from the Coquille Tribe, “The Coquille Tribe’s small Medford facility would help support the rising cost of programs and services for tribal families while creating more than 200 local jobs.” “The facility would buy from local businesses, contribute substantially to Medford’s city budget, and support local nonprofits through a grant fund.”
The Coquille Tribe has maintained that this initiative, which has been in the works since 2011, would benefit the Tribe and bring in additional cash and employment for the city. Former governors, locals, and even members of neighboring tribes (including the Cow Creek Band, who own the Seven Feathers Resort Casino in Canyonville) have all voiced their disapproval of the plan.
“Our casino would lose 25% of our profit, and that’s being conservative,” Jessica Bochart with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians said to NewsWatch 12 in early March.
“We figure it will be much, much more. It’d mean a loss of jobs not only for tribal citizens but for many Oregonians. It would mean we would have a huge funding deficit for our tribal programs, which supports our education, healthcare, housing, and elder support.”
Some locals are anxious about what a casino may do to their neighborhood. Nancy Flowers, a Medford resident, will be affected if the federal government approves the Tribe’s proposal to convert the Roxy Ann Lanes apartment complex into a casino.
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Charles Point has been “such a closed, quiet, secure area, and if it’s not that if the casino goes in, and we start finding out negative impacts, then I might consider moving,” she told NewsWatch 12 early March.
On March 2, 2015, the Medford City Council reversed its 2013 opposition to the proposal and adopted a policy of “conditional neutrality.” However, the federal government alone will decide whether or not the project continues ahead, and neither the municipal council nor the governor will have any formal voice in the matter.
According to Meade, quoted in a Coquille press release, “The governor has zero authority in this matter, and she should stay out of it.” Kotek concluded her letter by reiterating her intention to continue working closely with indigenous communities.
“I remain committed to working closely with Tribes, the federal government, state agencies, and our broader communities to enhance Tribal affairs for the betterment of all our people,” she said.
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