State gets more time for comment on Medford casino plan

The Associated Press /


MEDFORD — The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has granted Gov. John Kitzhaber’s request for an extra 60 days to comment on the Coquille Indian Tribe’s application to build a casino in Medford.

The state now has until May 6 to weigh in on the application. Kitzhaber’s spokesman, Tim Raphael, said the state wants to see the casino’s business plan and gauge the potential impact.

The Coquilles announced last year that they had purchased a bowling alley and a former 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 has asked the BIA to place the 2.4-acre property in a U.S. government trust. That would start a process that could lead to reservation status for the site.

The Coquilles already operate a casino in North Bend, 170 miles northwest of Medford. They note, however, that Jackson County is part of their service territory.

Kitzhaber has previously opposed efforts by other tribes to build second casinos in Oregon, contending it violates the spirit of a long-standing agreement to limit casinos to one per tribe.

The Coquilles propose building a Class II casino in Medford, which would have 500 video game machines, but no table games. Class III casinos, such as The Mill Casino in North Bend, have a greater variety of video gaming machines, along with table games such as roulette or blackjack.

The governor also wants to discuss the proposal with Medford and Jackson County officials, the Mail Tribune newspaper reported. The state Department of Transportation has recommended a traffic analysis, and the city of Medford was given an extra 30 days to comment because it wants to study the proposed casino’s impact on the police department and other services.

Ray Doerning, spokesman for the Coquilles, said the tribe agreed to the extension requests and is well aware of the concerns about exceeding the one-casino-per-tribe standard.

“That’s a muddy area there as to what people agreed to,” he said. “There is no real agreement.”

The Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe plans to fight the Coquille proposal to protect its own Seven Feathers casino in Canyonville, 70 miles north of Medford but conveniently located on Interstate 5. The tribe said the Medford area is its No. 1 source of customers.

“We are involved in discussions with every level of government,” said Wayne Shammel, the tribe’s attorney. “We will formally object. We are just waiting for the right time.”