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January 10, 2008

OLYMPIA, WA - Last month a Superior Court judge upheld a June decision that stopped a 2004 agreement by the county for the Cowlitz Tribe to build a giant casino complex near La Center. In response the tribe asked the National Indian Gaming Commission to accept amendments to its gaming ordinance.

Last week these amendments were approved.  It covers the health and safety programs for the proposed casino, provisions for law enforcement, fire protection and emergency response, a waiver of the tribe's sovereign immunity, and its consent to be sued by the county in state court.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," said George Skibine, director of the Interior Department's Office of Indian Gaming. "We are going to have to evaluate whether that is sufficient. We haven't done that."  Final approval from the federal government to create a 152-acre reservation west of La Center is still pending.

The National Indian Gaming Commission, an independent federal agency with ties to the U.S. Interior Department, examined the Cowlitz Tribe's ordinance and concluded it complies with the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The letter announcing the commission's approval also acknowledged the receipt of "opposition comments" from several groups, including the city of Vancouver, La Center cardrooms and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, but these were not considered persuasive arguments.

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