Cowlitz Tribe Wins Casino Legal Fight
Written by Associated Press
Published: 04 April 2017
LA CENTER, Wash. (AP) – A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to open a $510 million casino in southwestern Washington state near the border with Oregon.
The court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from casino opponents, leaving in place an appellate court ruling that upheld the U.S. Department of Interior's decision to grant 157 acres to the Cowlitz tribe for a reservation near the small town of La Center.
The decision clears the path for the tribe's plans for an April opening of its 360,000 square foot (33,400 square meter) Ilani Casino Resort off Interstate 5 about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Portland, Oregon.
The tribe on Tuesday planned to officially open a new I-5 interchange at Exit 16 that it spent $32 million renovating to handle casino traffic, The Columbian newspaper reported.
“This is a triumphant moment for The Cowlitz Indian Tribe because it marks the end of a 160-year journey back to our homeland, and the beginning of a new journey,” Cowlitz tribal chairman William Iyall said in a statement Monday.
After treaty negotiations between the U.S. government and the tribe failed in the 19th century, Cowlitz lands were opened to public settlement in 1863 and the tribe was left without a reservation.
The tribe was formally recognized by the U.S. government in 2002 and the Interior Department in 2013 agreed to put the land near La Center into a federal trust for the establishment of the tribe's reservation.
The Grande Ronde Community tribe of Oregon operates the Spirit Mountain Casino south of Portland and had estimated it would lose 41 percent of its revenue if the Cowlitz tribe's casino was allowed to open.
It dropped out of the lawsuit challenging the Cowlitz tribe's casino last year, but other opponents maintained the legal effort and said they were disappointed with the high court's decision. Among them were owners of card room gambling establishments in La Center.
“We still believe in the principles of our fight, and obviously we're disappointed,” John Bockmier, a representative for card room owners told the newspaper. “We are going to do our best to ensure the remaining two cardrooms in La Center continue to be the number one choice for folks looking for gaming entertainment.”
Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com