Casinos Ignite Indian War
War between Indian tribes was pretty much confined to the nineteenth century and earlier until the advent of casinos. It has returned, but this time fought in the courts rather than on the prairies or in the woods. The Grand Ronde tribe in Oregon has had a very successful casino called Spirit Mountain. The casino is the largest in Oregon. The Spirit Mountain Community Fund has provided $71.8 million (6% of revenue) in grants to the surrounding area over the past several years. The Grand Ronde tribe has a small reservation about 60 miles southwest of Portland and 15 miles as the crow flies from the Pacific Coast.
On the other side of Portland, the Cowlitz tribe in Washington has received permission for a casino at La Center that would be just 20 miles north of Portland. This is a serious threat to the revenue of the Spirit Mountain Casino, a 41% reduction by the tribe’s estimation. They are scrambling for alternative investments to generate revenue. In addition the Grand Ronde tribe has sued to stop the construction of the Cowlitz casino. They were denied in the U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and have decided to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Cowlitz are accused to “reservation shopping” to get an off-reservation site closer to Portland, which the Cowlitz dispute. The Supreme Court may well let the Court of Appeals decision stand and refuse to hear the case.
The Cowlitz, although a recognized tribe, do not have land in trust for a reservation. They, obviously want revenue to purchase land which they would seek to have put in trust for a reservation. Both tribes want out of poverty, which one has partially achieved, and the other wants its chance. This whole mess is the result of only allowing tribes to own casinos to make money. Other businesses, which the Indians would operate tax free, would compete unfairly with taxed businesses and are not allowed under Federal law governing the tribes.
Caitlyn M. May, Statesman Journal,
“Grand Ronde appeals to U. S. Supreme Court,” September 13, 2016.