October 31, 2014

Coquille tribe hopes to open casino in Medford

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) – An Oregon tribe that operates a casino in Coos County hopes to open another in Medford.

The Coquille Indian Tribe has quietly bought a bowling alley and restaurant building and has leased an adjacent golf course, the Medford Mail Tribune reported.

Chief Kenneth Tanner said the tribe will seek to have the purchased property placed into a federal trust, paving the way to reservation status.

“In this particular case we wanted to keep it as quiet as possible, and I think we were successful in doing that,” Tanner said.

Tanner told the newspaper that Medford is one of Oregon’s “last good markets remaining without a casino.”

He says plans are to level the restaurant for a parking lot and remodel the bowling alley, with part turned into a gambling area. He said getting the casino open could take two to three years.

The tribe has a casino in North Bend.

Jackson County Commissioner John Rachor said Thursday he was unaware of the Coquille Tribe’s plans but noted he would wait for public sentiment to give him direction.

“Indian casinos are successful wherever they go. Even the little one by Smith River in Northern California has grown,” Rachor said. “A lot of people complain about casinos, but people have a choice whether to go to them. One argument you always hear is that we’d be losing property taxes, but they’d be putting people to work so that’s the plus side.”

The two properties total about five acres, and an adjoining golf course is just more than 18 acres. It will take a year or more to get the property put into trust, said Tanner, a former Jackson County mental health worker who has lived in Ashland since 1978.

Greg Norton, superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Siletz Agency, which oversees tribal activity in Western Oregon, said trust requests flow across his desk regularly and are passed on with his recommendation to the BIA Northwest regional office.

During his 13-year tenure, Norton said, there have been no new Oregon lands approved for casino use. He said the newest of the region’s Indian gambling centers – Three Rivers Casino in Florence – was approved previously.

Tanner was first elected chief of the tribe in 1992 and has been re-elected every three years since. The tribe has 1,000 members, with most living in Coos County. Jackson County has the next-largest concentration with approximately 100 members.

“We want to keep dollars in the local community,” Tanner said. “Commercial casinos’ money goes to outside investors. We want to keep it inside the community.”

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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