A notice on the door of the Nooksack Northwood Casino in Lyden, Washington, describes its closure as “temporary.” Photo: The Nooksack 306

Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order

The Nooksack Tribe has been forced to close its casino in Washington amid a long-running disenrollment and leadership dispute.

The Nooksack Northwood Casino shut down operations on Friday, according to notices published on the facility's website and Facebook page. Though the closure was deemed “temporary,” no information was given about a reopening.

“We look forward to serving our loyal guests again soon,” the post on Facebook read.

The move came after the tribe was hit with a notice of violation and closure order by the National Indian Gaming Commission on Thursday. But many employees weren't informed until they showed up for work on Friday and weren't allowed inside.

“Well that sucks, had a job for a whole 2 weeks, now on hold again,” one employee wrote after initially expressing skepticism that the casino would actually close.

The tribe can reopen the casino if it cures “numerous violations” of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, according to the NIGC. One of the most significant hurdles is leadership -- federal agencies do not recognize the sitting council, which is led by Bob Kelly and his allies, as legitimate.

The council has failed to call elections and has removed more than 300 people in violation of its own laws, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has concluded. Kelly challenged the determination in federal court but was told that he lacks authority to sue in the name of the "Nooksack Indian Tribe."

This isn't the first time the tribe has been forced to close a casino. The Nooksack River Casino shut down in December 2015 amid financial management issues.

This isn't the first time the NIGC has stepped in when leadership is at stake either. During the Bush administration, the Meskwaki Tribe had to close its casino in Iowa because the controlling council was not recognized by the federal government.

The Nooksack Tribe has the right to appeal the notice of violation and closure order, both through the NIGC and in the federal court system.

Read More on the Story:
Feds order Nooksack Tribe to close its last remaining casino. It did so Friday (The Bellingham Herald 6/16)
Feds order shutdown of tribal casino in Washington state (The Seattle Times 6/16)
Feds tell Nooksack Tribe to close Lynden-area casino (KGMI 6/16)

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