Casino Stalker

Spokane Tribe wins governor's approval for off-reservation casino

A banner touting the benefits of the Spokane Tribe's proposed off-reservation casino in Airway Heights, Washington. Photo from STEP / Facebook

The Spokane Tribe got more good news this week with approval of its off-reservation casino by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D).

Inslee on Thursday announced his support for the Spokane Tribe Economic Project. His historic decision came nearly a year after the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the off-reservation casino in Airway Heights.

“This is not a simple situation with an easy, clear-cut answer. I wanted to be sure to fully understand all perspectives on this issue before making a decision," Inslee said in a press release. "All sides have very compelling arguments in favor of and against this proposal. After much consideration, I decided that allowing the Spokane Tribe to develop on its federally recognized land was both fair and appropriate under the federal legal requirements.“

The decision marks only the second time that an off-reservation casino has been approved in Washington under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The first was for the Kalispel Tribe back in 1998.

The Kalispels now operate the Northern Quest Resort and Casino less than three miles from the Spokane site. In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Inslee acknowledged that the new development will create "substantial economic competition" for the existing facility.

"I do not believe, however, that this potential competition alone should permanently bar the Spokane from developing on trust land within the Spokane Tribe's federally recognized historical and aboriginal area," Inslee wrote in the letter.

The Kalispel Tribe sees things differently. A statement given to The Spokesman Review, describes the new casino as a major threat.

“The STEP development will harm the Kalispel Tribe and our ability to provide essential services to our members,” the statement read, according to the paper. “While we support the Spokane Tribe’s goal to create more economic opportunity for its members, we cannot support a strategy that comes at such a high cost to our own people and so clearly does not meet the narrow criteria required by federal gaming law.”

But tribe did not say whether it will challenge the governor's decision, the paper reported.

For now, the Spokanes are celebrating. The tribe has been pursuing the casino since 2006.

“We are thankful for Governor Inslee’s support to help our tribe with self-sufficiency while providing a major economic impact to the entire Spokane region,” Chairwoman Carol Evans said in a press release.

The decision marks the second major announcement for the tribe this week. On Monday, the tribe won inclusion in the Obama administration's Promise Zone program, an initiative aimed at improving economic and employment conditions.

The designation includes tribe's main reservation and the 145-acre site in Airway Heights, which has been in trust since 2001. The site falls within the tribe's aboriginal territory.

As part of the effort, the tribe will host Secretary Jewell on Thursday. She's scheduled to visit the main reservation.

Get the Story:
Inslee approves Spokane Tribe’s West Plains casino project (The Spokesman-Review 6/8)
Inslee concurs with STEP project decision (KXLY 6/8)
Gov. Inslee approves Spokane Tribe casino (KREM 6/8)

Relevant Documents:
BIA Two-Part Determination Letter (June 15, 2015)

Federal Register Notice:
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Spokane Tribe of Indians West Plains Casino and Mixed Use Project, City of Airway Heights, Spokane County, WA (February 1, 2013)

Related Stories:
Washington and North Dakota tribes join Promise Zone program (6/6)
Carol Evans: Spokane Tribe deserves off-reservation casino too (12/08)
Editorial: Reject Spokane Tribe off-reservation casino project (11/23)
Spokane Tribe still waiting for answer on off-reservation casino (10/02)
Spokane Tribe awaits governor's ruling on off-reservation casino (09/08)
Editorial: Washington doesn't need another off-reservation casino (07/09)
Spokane Tribe partners with Hard Rock for off-reservation casino (6/29)
Spokane Tribe faces another hurdle in off-reservation casino bid (6/17)
Spokane Tribe finally wins BIA approval for off-reservation casino (6/16)
Spokane Tribe still waiting on decision for off-reservation casino (6/12)