Oregon: Medford votes to allow Coquille casino plan; other tribes protest decision

The Medford City Council, Oregon, narrowly passed Council Bill 2023-23 on Thursday night, changing its previous position of opposition to neutral in regard to allowing the Coquille Indian Tribe’s application to build a casino. Although the council’s decision does not officially play a role in the federal government’s final decision of approval or denial, some tribes strongly oppose the measure as they believe the new casino would highly affect their operations.

For the last decade, the Coquille Tribe has been working towards building a casino in Medford, which they say would be used to help their tribe, along with creating new jobs and revenue for the city.

But for other surrounding tribes like the Cow Creek, Klamath, and Karuk Tribes, a new casino located in Medford could be devastating for them. As it stands now, all three tribes rely heavily on the business generated by those that travel to their casinos from Medford and the surrounding Jackson County communities, and all of them have implored the city to maintain their status of opposition, reports KDRV.

Back in 2013, the city council passed Resolution 2013-68, which declared a position of opposition to the Coquille Indian Tribe’s fee-to-trust application to the United States Department of the Interior to build a casino in Medford. However, during Thursday’s meeting, the position of opposition changed to neutral when the council voted in favor 5-3.

Our casino would lose 25% of our profit, and that’s being conservative,” said Jessica Bochart with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. “We figure it will be much, much more. It’d mean a loss of jobs not only for tribal citizens but for a lot of Oregonians. It would mean we would have a huge funding deficit for our tribal programs, which supports our education, healthcare, housing, and elder support.”

For the Karuk Tribe, the impacts could be very similar for them in Yreka at the Rain Rock Casino. However, the worst potential impacts could be seen towards the east in Klamath County. Clayton Dumont, the tribe’s chairman, said that in a best-case scenario, the tribe could see between a 16-to-20% decline in business at the Kla-Mo-Ya.

“We’re seeing numbers as high as 50%, and, yeah, it could close us,” Dumont said. “We’re not a big operation, but we’re very dependent on that.”

Clayton Dumont

Tribes like the Klamath, Cow Creek, and Karuk agree that approval by the federal government on this matter would be unprecedented. In Oregon, only one tribe (Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians) has two casinos located within two different counties. This approval by the federal government would make them the second Tribe to have two casinos that would be more than 160 miles apart, reports the cited source.

A final decision on the Coquille Tribe’s application to build a casino in Medford has not been set and may not be decided on for several more months or years.