Jackson County Commissioners oppose casino plan

Jackson County's Board of Commissioners is unanimously opposed to having a Native American casino in Medford, and will send a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs outlining its opposition this week.

At a meeting today, commissioners cited concerns about several issues they say the Coquille Indian Tribe's business plan fails to address. Among the points of worry are the possible resulting need for more space at the Jackson County Jail and an addictions recovery program — and whether the tribe is willing to pay fees for those types of facilities — and street improvements in the area surrounding the proposed site.

"When we look at the impacts to the jail, the impacts to the sheriff's department, the local police department, the traffic it would create, all of those things are concerns," said Commissioner Doug Breidenthal. "The county has to be in a position to be able to get fees for services."

The Coquille Tribe has proposed a casino at the Roxy Ann Lanes bowling alley and former Kim's Restaurant off South Pacific Highway. The tribe purchased the 5-acre property for a little over $2.2 million last year. The tribe also would lease to the adjacent Bear Creek Golf Course.

The casino has been a point of controversy for months among community members and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, who oppose the Coquille's proposal because they already have the North Bend Casino. The Cow Creek tribe, which runs the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, says there is a gentleman's agreement in the state that allows only one casino for each tribe and has said the Coquilles do not have a historical claim to Medford reservation land.

Commissioners said they are also philosophically opposed to having a casino in Medford because of gambling's potential negative impacts of enabling and creating gambling addictions.

"I don't want Southern Oregon to be known as the gambling center of Oregon," Commissioner John Rachor said. "Personally, I was philosophically against it."

Philosophically, Breidenthal said he's still weighing out the pros and cons in his mind. He said he sees the benefits of more jobs in the community, but that he was concerned those jobs would come at the expense of other local businesses that offer gambling.

"It wouldn't be new jobs created necessarily," Breidenthal said. "That's part of the information I just don't have."

The board does not have the final say-so, county officials stressed, but added that their opinion, along with the City of Medford's, would weigh on the final decision.

"The Bureau of Indian Affairs will make that decision," Rachor said.

— Ryan Pfeil

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