The Coquille tribe in Oregon awaits a federal ruling on whether a 2.42-acre site is part of its reservation, a determination that will decide whether or not it can open a second casino.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), left — seen here in 2016 with a Confederated Warm Springs tribal member and former Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) — is not keen on yelling “BINGO!” to the Coquille tribe’s efforts to open a new Class II casino. (Image: Oregon Gov. Brown/Twitter)

The tribe has gradually amassed 13 acres over six years, with the latest two parcels in South Medford being acquired late last year, the Coquille also leases a nearby 32-acre golf course.

Plans Await DOI Ruling

The tribe spent more than $6 million over the past three years to purchase properties around the site for the proposed casino, according to Medford, Oregon’s Mail Tribune. Plans are to build a Class II casino  —- featuring bingo-based slots and games — on the 2.42 acres acquired in 2012 near the South Pacific Highway. It’s currently the site of a bowling alley.

Before moving forward, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) must release a draft environmental impact report. Once published, there will be public comments, followed by a final report.

These are needed before the Department of the Interior [DOI] can make a final decision regarding taking the land into trust for gaming,” Brenda Meade, chairperson of the Coquille Indian Tribal Council, told Casino.org on Tuesday. “We are now developing a master plan for this property.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has to date opposed the effort.

Entertaining Ideas

Meade says that market studies will help determine how the properties “can be used to achieve our overall goal of creating an entertainment destination for Medford and the region.”

In addition to the casino, the tribe may want to build hotels and a conference center in Medford.

The DOI previously issued a legal ruling that if the 2.42 acres become part of the reservation, it becomes eligible for gaming venues under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), according to the tribe.

Besides Gov. Brown, other tribes — such as the Cow Creek — and various state and local officials have been less than enthusiastic about the possibility of the Class II gaming venue. Cow Creek CEO Michael J. Rondeau warned the proposed casino would the size of those found in Las Vegas.

“The Coquille have tried to circumvent federal law that requires the Governor’s approval … [and] Oregon voters have rejected the expansion of casinos, supporting one casino per tribe [only] on reservation land,” he told local news KOBI TV. “The people of Medford — and all Oregonians — should be alarmed.”

The issue has led to political controversy. State records show the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians as having contributed $115,000 to Brown’s campaigns between 2008 and 2018. That’s compared to just $8,300 between 2008 and 2015 from the Coquille Tribe.

The Coquille already owns and operates the Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park in North Bend, Oregon. Altogether, there are eight tribal casinos in Oregon, and no commercial casinos, Oregon State Police Capt. Timothy Fox told Casino.org.

Sports betting is also growing in the state. Oregon regulators want to have a sports betting option on its existing app in place by September.