The Biden Administration and the Coquille Indian Tribe are currently facing opposition over a proposal to construct a second casino outside of the tribe’s territory in Oregon’s Medford region. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is poised to release the final environmental impact statement (EIS) that could potentially approve the construction and management of the casino. The initial EIS draft, released in November, faced criticism from several quarters, including other tribes, lawmakers, and regional groups.
The Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, which represents 13 tribes in California, decried the Coquille Tribe’s application to transfer fee land in Medford for gaming purposes, stating that it threatened the sovereign rights of other tribal governments. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association similarly voiced concerns that approving the proposal would compromise the sovereign rights of other tribes, potentially leading to conflict over gaming revenues.
Opposition to the casino proposal has been significant, with many questioning the Biden Administration’s decision to support the plan, which initially began under the Obama Administration’s policies. Lawmakers, tribal groups, and other tribes have expressed concerns about the negative impact the proposed casino would have on neighboring tribes and their gaming revenues.
Lawmakers from Oregon and California wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland opposing the proposal, highlighting the potential for gaming conflicts and the impact on the balancing of gambling revenues and public services in their communities. The proposal has also drawn opposition from several tribes in the region, including the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, who stand to experience a significant drop in gaming income if the casino is built.
The Coquille Tribe’s proposal has been criticized for disregarding the impact on neighboring tribes and for engaging in what some have called “reservation-shopping” to justify the construction of a second casino. Tribal leaders and experts have emphasized the deleterious effects the casino would have on neighboring tribes and the precedent it would set for similar projects in the future.
Despite the opposition, the Coquille Tribe has presented the casino proposal as a solution to their financial struggles, citing economic stagnation, inflation, and demographic changes on the Oregon coast as reasons for their financial hardship. The tribe argues that the new casino would provide much-needed revenue to support existing tribal programs and meet the needs of a growing membership.
As the debate continues, the Biden Administration faces pressure to dismiss the proposed casino project and consider the impact it would have on neighboring tribes and the wider tribal community. The decision is expected to be closely watched by tribal leaders and communities across the country, as it could set a precedent for similar projects in the future.