The Kalispel Tribe of Washington State is suing the federal government over its decision to allow the neighboring Spokane tribe to build a casino just two miles from its flagship Northern Quest Casino and Resort.
The lawsuit, filed last week, claims the the new casino will jeopardize the operation of Kalispel’s government. The tribe is demanding the court halt the construction of the new casino on the grounds that the Spokane lands are newly acquired.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act prohibits Class III casino gaming on lands acquired after 1988, the year it was enacted. But there is an exception to this rule,, known as “two-part determination,” which permits casino gaming on newly acquired lands.
This is dependent, however, on the Secretary of Interior consulting the tribe, state and local officials, as well as other nearby tribes, to determine that a new casino is in the best interests of the tribe and does not negatively impact the wider, surrounding community.
Legal Action the Only Course
The Kalispel believes the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) failed to do so.
Furthermore, it contests that, in making its decision, both departments dismissed data provided by the tribe that showed a casino near Northern Quest would impact the Kalispel Tribe’s government revenues and would force them to reduce governmental services to its members.
“Unfortunately, because the BIA ignored our comments and extensive expert analysis during its decision-making process, legal action is the only avenue available to us to protect a sustainable economic future for our people,” said Kalispel Executive Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Curt Holmes.
“We support the Spokane Tribe’s goal to develop more economic opportunity, but not at the cost of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and our future generations,” he added.
According to the tribe, its casino operations employ nearly 2,000 people and buys more than $4 million in goods and services each month. It has donated more than $16 million to the community since 2000.
In 1994, the federal government granted the Kalispels 40 acres of trust land in Airway Heights, which became the location of Northern Quest.
Spokane Speak Back
In an official statement, the Spokane tribe said it stood ready to assist the Department of Justice in defending against the Kalispel Tribe’s lawsuit. It questioned why the government should be required to “insulate Kalispel’s gaming monopoly against fair competition from us, the resident Tribe, despite our significant unmet needs.”
“The United States Department of Interior approved the Spokane Tribe’s new casino, located in the heart of our ancestral homeland, only after engaging in a rigorous, comprehensive ten-year review process,” it said.
“Governor Jay Inslee then concurred in Interior’s decision after a year-long review of the record and after meeting with key stakeholders. Simply put, Interior correctly administered the review process and ultimately made the right decision.”