Business Deals | Openings & Closings

Cowlitz Tribe hosted Donald Trump to discuss his interest in casino




Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump celebrated Cinco de Mayo, the date of a Mexican victory over France, by enjoying a "taco bowl" prepared by the chefs at Trump Tower Grill in New York City. "I love Hispanics!" the presumptive nominee said. Photo: Facebook

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump often brags about his business prowess but he failed to seal a casino deal with the Cowlitz Tribe in the early 2000s.

Trump went to Washington after he wrote the tribe not once but twice in pursuit of a gaming partnership. Dave Barnett, the son of the late Chairman John Barnett, told The Columbian that the tribe even took him to the site of the proposed casino.

“Trump said it was the most incredible site he had ever seen, incredible,” Barnett told the paper.

But when Trump sent over the details of his pitch in January 2002, tribal officials didn't like what they saw. “It was too pricey," Barnett told the paper.

“All of it was really basically for the Trump name,” Barnett added.


Donald Trump wrote to then-Chairman John Barnett on November 20, 2000, just a few months after the Cowlitz Tribe's federal recognition was finalized.

The Cowlitz Tribe ended up going with the Mohegan Tribe, the owners of the successful Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The partners broke ground on the Cowlitz Casino and Entertainment Resort earlier this year and it's due to open in the late spring of 2017.

Despite rebuffing Trump, the tribe might have gotten something even better out of the talks. In one of his letters, the casino mogul said he fully supported tribal sovereignty.

Barnett told the Columbian that he's glad the tribe kept the correspondence: “In case he becomes the president someday."

Get the Story:
Trump made approach to Cowlitz over casino plan (The Columbian 5/7)

An Opinion:
Press Talk by Lou Brancaccio: Trump and the Cowlitz casino (The Columbian 5/7)

Federal Register Notices:
Notice of Final Federal Agency Actions on Transportation Project in Washington State (May 3, 2016)
Proclaiming Certain Lands as Reservation for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe (November 13, 2015)
Land Acquisitions; Cowlitz Indian Tribe (May 8, 2013)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

Related Stories:
Cowlitz Tribe hosts forums on casino construction and related work (5/5)
Cowlitz Tribe aims to hire locals as casino construction continues (5/2)
Grand Ronde Tribes still weighing plans at site of former racetrack (04/14)
Cowlitz Tribe accuses county of threatening casino site workers (04/08)
Appeals court in D.C. hears closely watched land-into-trust case (03/18)
Cowlitz Tribe faces unusual opposition to casino wastewater plant (03/07)
Opponents of Cowlitz Tribe ask judge to put a stop to casino work (3/4)
Cowlitz Tribe and city reach long-awaited agreement for casino (3/2)
Cowlitz Tribe included waiver of immunity in old casino agreement (3/1)
Cowlitz Tribe won't stop working on casino despite county threat (2/29)
Cowlitz Tribe starts hiring process for long-awaited casino resort (2/25)
Cowlitz Tribe celebrates start of construction on $500M casino (02/15)
Cowlitz Tribe close to reaching agreement with city for new casino (2/5)
Donald Trump once claimed IGRA and tribal casinos were illegal (01/29)
Cowlitz Tribe plans to debut long-awaited casino in spring of 2017 (01/27)
Republican lawmaker questions Cowlitz Tribe's gaming project (01/22)
Cowlitz Tribe turned down Donald Trump for gaming partnership (10/05)