Cowlitz Tribe already in debt $485M for long-delayed casino bid

Chairman Bill Iyall, right, speaks at the Cowlitz Tribe's 16th annual powwow on September 19, 2015. Photo from Facebook

The Cowlitz Tribe has finally started preliminary work on its long-delayed casino in Washington.

An official groundbreaking on the Cowlitz Casino and Entertainment Resort is set for early 2016. The project will be financed by $485 million in debt being carried by the Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority.

Moody’s Investor Service rated the debt as "B3," a somewhat riskier grade. But the outlook is "stable" and analysts note that the facility is only about 30 miles from Portland, Oregon's most populous city.

Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino Resort in Washington
Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino and Entertainment Resort. Image from Cowlitz Indian Tribe Environmental Impact Statement

"We expect Portland will have win/per/unit stats comparable with other large metropolitan areas including Detroit and Philadelphia," Moody's said on October 8. "Additionally, there is no legislation currently in the works for commercial casinos in Oregon."

The project's proximity to Portland already prompted litigation. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde operate the Spirit Mountain Casino about 60 miles from the city so the Cowlitz Tribe poses a competitive threat.

The Grand Ronde Tribes and other opponents are trying to block the casino in federal court. Briefing is underway before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Story:
Cowlitz casino project gets riskier rating (The Columbian 10/10)

Federal Register Notice:
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)

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