Tribes Look to U.S. Interior Secretary Haaland to Reject Proposed Casino in Medford, Oregon

The Coquille Indian Tribe keeps battling to operate the casino in Medford, Oregon, but opponents in northern California and southern Oregon remain steadfast in their objections. The fight has been ongoing for a decade, and neither side appears willing to give up. 

Complying with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act:

The proposed site, owned by the tribe, currently features a bowling alley, while the tribe wants to turn it into a casino. However, the main problem is that it isn’t part of the reservation near the Oregon Coast. Moreover, the reservation is located more than 150 miles from the site. 

To start working on the project, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has to approve it, and the land would need to be put into a federal trust. The reason for this lies in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which requires tribal casinos to be located on reservations, the land that the tribe operates, as well as the land in trust.

But the Karuk Tribe, the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Elk Valley Rancheria, and the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation think the project won’t do anything good to the tribes, since it would violate the Act. Their main concern is that it will draw revenue from the casinos in reservations and that other tribes would start doing the same. According to the opponents, operating tribal casinos in urban areas would cause irreparable harm to the tribes and reservations, even more, so if other tribes in the US start following Coquille’s steps.

However, the Coquille Indian Tribe isn’t the only one who wants to build a casino outside of the reservation. The Siletz Tribe from Salem also awaits the approval to put their land into a trust.

Impact on other tribal casinos:

As Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) reports, Chair of Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Carla Keene, said in a recent interview that the revenue from the Seven Feathers Casino owned by Cow Creek could decrease by 25 percent if the Coquille casino gets the green light to proceed. Keen said the tribe uses that money to fund medical and other public services.

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On the other hand, Brenda Meade, a Chair of the Coquille Tribe, believes that the government needs to respect tribal sovereignty. She said: “It is heartbreaking that other tribes, including tribes in California, continue to attack our sovereignty and seek to limit our economic development rights within the reservation restoration area specifically defined by Congress. Secretary Haaland and the Biden administration have expressed their support for tribal sovereignty, and we trust they will honor this commitment to enable our continued economic development.”

Deb Haaland, U.S. Interior Secretary, decided to move forward with the casino after years of rejections and expectations, but the other four tribes aren’t satisfied with the decision. They stated: “Your visit is also consistent with the department’s stated commitment to meaningfully consult with affected tribal nations in advance of policy decisions of tribal implication, as well as the Biden administration’s promise ‘to protect the ability of every Nati lodivip ve person here in the United States to lead safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives in their homelands.”