The Spokane Tribe of Indians want to follow in the footsteps of so many other tribes and companies throughout the United States by building a resort casino complex in the suburbs of Spokane.
But there is significant public opposition to the proposal locally, leaving it up to Governor Jay Inslee as to whether the casino will actually be built.
Inslee’s decision could still be weeks or even months away, as the deadline for his determination isn’t until next June.
In the meantime, the Spokane Tribe is trying to build a case for the casino to be built, while others in the area are trying to convince the governor that the region doesn’t need a casino.
Spokane Casino Would Be Second in Airway Heights
The proposed $400 million resort has already been approved by the federal government, which granted an exemption for the tribe to build a casino off tribal lands in Airway Heights.
They would be the second Native American group, following the Kalispel Tribe, to open a casino in the suburb.
The Kalispels have been adamant in their opposition to the new casino. Now, the tribe is joining with local business leaders in order to try to stop the Spokane Tribe from building their resort.
One of the major issues appears to be the location of the casino, which would be just a mile away from Fairchild Air Force Base.
Some local businesses say that a casino so close to the military installation could cause it to close in the future, something that would have a major economic impact on the area.
But the Spokane Tribe says that this argument is only being used as a way to keep them from competing against the Northern Quest Casino, operated by the Kalispels.
They note that the Air Force has not objected to the casino themselves, and that they have worked with military officials in planning the resort.
Officials Fear Spread of Off-Reservation Casinos
Some government officials and politicians have also expressed concern about allowing another off-site tribal casino, even if this particular project doesn’t bother them.
Having a second off-reservation resort in the state might lead to an explosion of interest in similar projects, with fears that casinos could even come into cities like Seattle.
However, the Spokane Tribe says that they’re not trying to be trendsetters. Instead, they say that the resort would help bring some much-needed economic benefits for the tribe, as well as supporting 5,000 jobs for the local community.
“It will really help with high unemployment among tribal members,” said tribal chairwoman Carol Evans. “The revenue will help with health care, scholarships, elder programs and cultural programs.”
The tribe’s idea goes well beyond a casino. Known as the Spokane Tribe Economic Project, the development would include a hotel and retails spaces as well.
The Spokane Tribe has also said that they should be allowed to build on their ancestral homelands, since the Kalispels were allowed to do so.
The Kalispel Tribe contends that the Spokanes only became interested in building a resort after they saw the success of their casino, and that building a second Airway Heights facility would cut deeply into their revenues.
But the Spokanes say that they aren’t looking to help themselves, not hurt anyone else.
“We are looking at growing the market, not upsetting any competition,” Evans said.