Court challenge likely in casino development process, tribal leaders say

The leaders of the Cow Creek band of the Umpqua Tribe told a Medford audience Friday that a Coquille Indian Tribe request that could lead to a tribal casino in Medford is almost certain to first lead to legal challenges.

The Coquille have purchased two properties and leased another in south Medford and say they will petition the U.S. Interior Department to place the purchased land in federal trust, which would give the tribe the ability to open a casino there.

"If the secretary of the Interior makes the determination, 'Yes, you can place it in trust,' the next day you can expect us and others to file lawsuits," Cow Creek general counsel Wayne Shammel told a meeting of the Medford Rogue Rotary Club. "If the secretary of the Interior does not place it in trust, the next day you can expect the Coquilles to file a lawsuit."

Shammel said none of the tribes in the region have an unfettered claim to the Rogue Valley, but the Coquilles have a weaker one than most.

"With all due respect, this is not Coquille territory," he said.

In early September, the Coquilles announced they had purchased Roxy Ann Lanes bowling alley and the former Kim's Restaurant in hopes of opening a Medford casino along South Pacific Highway. The tribe also agreed to lease Bear Creek Golf Course, adjacent to the two buildings.

The tribe purchased Roxy Ann Lanes for $1.6 million and Kim's for $675,000. The two properties total about 5 acres and the golf course is just more than 18 acres.

In making plans to locate a casino on the site, the Coquilles noted that Jackson County is part of their service area, although they are based in the Coos Bay area, where they already operate The Mill Casino.

However, Mike Rondeau, chief executive officer of the Cow Creeks, said the service area designation is not exclusive to the Coquille. The Cow Creeks, Klamath, Siletz and Grand Ronde tribes also include Jackson County in their service areas.

— Bob Hunter

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