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Spokane Tribe of Indians seek rival casino near Spokane

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November 27, 2010

The Spokane Tribe of Indians are aiming for approval from the federal government for an off reservation casino resort to be built by Northern Quest Casino. The casino operated by the Kalispel Tribe. Critics are concerned if the plan is approved that it will allow tribes to build other off reservation casinos.

The Spokane Tribe believes that building a casino near the current Northern Quest Casino will bring more visitors to the area. They believe that the two casinos will do well together forming a cluster such as what is seen in Las Vegas and Reno. The Kalispel Tribe does not agree and feels the additional casino will be competition.

Six hearings from around the country have been conducted by the U.S. Department of Interior. The purpose was to take testimony regarding approval for off reservation casinos. In over 20 years, only 5 casinos have been granted this. Northern Quest is one of them.

The 416 member of the Kalispel Tribe have a reservation of just 1 mile wide and 8 miles long, located in Usk. In the 1990's, the Kalispel Tribe bought land in Airway Heights. This is a suburb of Spokane. The tribe was faced with limited ways to generate money and bought the property that took seven years to be designated as their tribal land and allow for gambling.
However, The Spokane Tribe argue that Northern Wind was built on their ancestral lands.

The 2,655 member Spokane Tribe have a reservation 30 miles to the northwest of Spokane. They have operated five casinos. However only two of them are currently open. Chewelah is the largest with 400 slot machines.

When Northern Quest Casino opened, revenues for the Spokane's dropped 80 percent. This forced the tribe to limit funding to their social programs that aid their youths and elders. It also affected their education programs.

Currently there is a 50 percent unemployment rate with the Spokanes. If the plan is approved, 800 permanent jobs will be created. This will lower the unemployment rate instantly. They believe that they should be allowed to achieve the same self sufficiency goals as the Kalispel Tribe.

It is expected for the Interior Department to have a decision on the plan next year.

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