Cow Creek tribe blasts decision

Oregon tribe allowed to open Medford casino

The Coquille Indian Tribe received word from the federal government that it could open a casino on its Medford property if it's declared reservation land.
2017-01-23
Reading time 2:24 min
The Coquille Indian Tribe received word from the federal government that it could open a casino on its Medford property if it's declared reservation land.

"While we recognize that this decision will not be finalized until the end of the federal process, this clarification encourages us to move forward on planning for the Cedars at Bear Creek and further development in Medford," said Coquille Chairwoman Brenda Meade in an email response to the Mail Tribune.

In a memo the tribe received from Paula Hart, director of the Office of Indian Gaming, a preliminary review determined that the south Medford property would qualify for gaming if the lands were taken in trust. The review was prepared by the Solicitor's Office of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The memo, excerpts of which were provided by the Coquille tribe, indicates the reservation land process, which has already taken four years, can continue.

We now have clear direction from the Department of the Interior, Meade said

The Coquille tribe wants to build a casino called Cedars at Bear Creek along Highway 99 in south Medford. The tribe would convert the current Roxy Ann Lanes bowling alley and the former site of Kim's restaurant into a casino with 650 video gambling machines, but it wouldn't feature the card games available at other larger casinos in the state such as Seven Feathers in Canyonville.

The Coquille tribe has asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the 2.42-acre Medford property, excluding an adjacent golf course, into a government trust.

The Cow Creek tribe, which has opposed its rival tribe's Medford casino, blasted what it saw as a last-minute maneuver by the Obama administration

"This was kind of surprising that they did it at the 11th hour," said spokesman Michael Rondeau.

He said the decision shows a complete disregard for the opposition raised by the local community, state leaders and state gaming policies.

He said the Coquille have no ancestral connection to the Medford area. The Coquilles say they do have an ancestral claim to this area and point out they have the second-highest number of tribal members in Jackson County after Coos County, where they have The Mill Casino in North Bend.

He said his tribe will continue to oppose the casino project and keep a close eye on a lengthy environmental review.

"We're viewing this as one step in a long process," Rondeau said.

Opposition to the casino proposal has come from the governor's office as well as the city of Medford and Jackson County

Jackson County Commissioner Bob Strosser said he has received no information about this latest development in the casino proposal.

"We're at the mercy of the process," he said.

Medford Councilor Tim Jackle said he's heard there's some news coming out of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but he isn't clear yet what it means.

"We don't know what it is," Jackle said. "We're anxious to hear what it is."

Despite the opposition, Meade said she hopes to work with Medford officials on a variety of agreements, including for city water and sewer services, as well as police, though the casino will have its own security force.

"I hope we can work with the city," she said.

"While we disagree with this interpretation of law and believe this is bad public policy, this is one decision in a complex and multi-step process that we believe ultimately will not meet the rigorous federal standards necessary for it to move forward," Rondeau said in an email to the Mail Tribune.

 

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