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Oregon Tribe Causes Stir With Casino Plans

Coquille Hopes For Expansion Beyond Lands


Tribal gaming groups around the country have made some major expansion efforts over the last few years, and now one of those moves is causing some controversy in Oregon. The state’s Coquille tribe has drawn criticism for attempting to build a casino more than 150 miles from its lands.

The tribe is located in the North Bend area on the west coast and is seeking to build in Medford, located in the southwest region of the state. The idea hasn’t been met well by other tribes.

Tribes Push Back

Some tribes are arguing that a new Coquille casino would hurt their own gaming properties. According to the Times-Standard newspaper, Karuk tribe chairman Russell “Buster” Attebery said the Coquille were attempting to “reservation jump” with plans for a new casino.

Attebery said the casino would result in a 27% revenue loss for the Karuks’ Rain Rock Casino, which is located about an hour away in northern California. He added that the financial loss could also hurt his tribe’s plans to open a medical clinic. Other regional tribes have also expressed concern.

“When you come to tribes that want to reservation jump, if you will, to other areas that are in this case, 150 to 160 miles away from their casino, and their lands, their homelands, the precedent it will set could be very devastating to the very premise that the tribes, because they’re sovereign nations, were able to develop an economy that included in Nevada-style gaming on their homelands,” Attebery told the Times-Standard.

“This would open the doors to not only other tribes being able to jump to other areas, but other corporations being able to do that and it could be devastating. It would saturate that economy.”

The Coquille tribe operates The Mill Casino on the tribe’s lands in Coos Bay and leaders believe they have the right to put land in trust near Medford for a casino.

“The Coquille Tribe has been waiting over a decade to complete an extensive review process that is required before Tribes can have lands taken into trust,” the tribe noted in November “As of this date, a decision to publish the final Environmental Impact Study (EIS) has not been made by the federal government. Hoping to capitalize on that lack of action, a growing collaboration of special interests have decided that opposing a small tribe’s ambitions to achieve self-sufficiency will somehow advance their political or economic self-interest.”

Adding additional casinos beyond traditional tribal lands has seen several major acquisitions in recent years. That has included some well-known casinos in Las Vegas with Florida’s Seminole tribe buying the Mirage in 2022 for $1.1 billion and California’s San Manuel Band of Mission Indians purchasing the Palms casino in 2022 for $650 million.

*Photo – The Mill