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Gorge Casino Gets Interior Approval

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A final environmental impact statement recently earned the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs approval by the Interior to construct Cascade Locks Resort and Casino, reported Portland Business Journal. The off-reservation, land-into-trust agreement would restore the tribe’s right to its historic homeland in the City of Cascade Locks, Hood River County, Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge.

Developers still need to prove the casino meets Indian Gaming Act standards, which would allow the land to enter an Interior Department trust, a vital step in casino authorization.

The tribe first proposed the development on April 6, 2005, signing a tribal-state compact with then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski to put 25 acres into trust for gaming purposes. But opposition may arise from Oregon Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber. Casino opponents allege Kitzhaber will veto it.

“This is a last gasp by casino proponents to try to put a positive spin on this ill-fated Gorge casino gambit,” said Michael Lang, conservation director for project opponents Friends of the Columbia Gorge, to Portland Business Journal. “Oregon’s incoming governor is strongly opposed to the Gorge casino proposal and has veto authority over the project.”

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If Kitzhaber has a change of heart, under terms of the contract, the tribe has to create 1,700 jobs and, over 20 years, channel $850 million to Oregon students attending state universities, and spend $50 million on environmental projects in the Gorge, in addition to spending $100 million of casino money on local economic development projects, reported Portland Business Journal.

The tribe attests the new casino will improve its “long-term economic and social vitality and self-sufficiency,” on its EIS Project Web Site.

Nine Indian casinos currently operate in Oregon. When the Warm Springs opens their Cascade Locks casino, they will be required to close their casino at Kah-Nee-Ta, maintaining the number of nine casinos in the state. “Governor Kulongoski preserved the ‘one casino’ per tribe rule in the compact for the Cascade Locks resort and casino. There will be no increase and ‘no proliferation,’” according to frequently asked questions on the Cascade Locks Web site.