Kalispel Tribe Files Suit to Block Spokane Tribe Casino

The Kalispel Tribe is suing in federal court in an attempt to halt the construction of a rival casino that is being built by the Spokane Indian Tribe. The reasoning for this law suit is that the new casino would cause their tribe “significant harm.”

The Spokane casino is currently being built in Eastern Washington state, which will be branded under the Hard Rock Hotel banner, is only two miles from the Kalispel’s Northern Quest casino. The Spokane Tribe began the $40 million casino project last fall, which launched the first phase of what is set to become a $400 million casino resort. Phase one would include a gaming floor complete with restaurants and an outdoor plaza, set to open later this year.

Details of the Lawsuit

The civil suit makes the argument that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) failed to consider the negative impact that the Spokane Tribe casino would have on the Northern Quest Casino. The lawsuit also states that the Northern Quest funds nearly all of the Kalispel Tribe’s government operations. Despite the revenue provided from Northern Quest the tribe still suffers from a number of economic challenges, including unemployment, lack of housing, and substance abuse.

Federal requires the interior secretary to determine the impacts of a new casino on local Indian tribes. The Kalispels argue that the Interior Department violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by allowing the construction of the Spokane casino, located in the suburb of Airway Heights. It is uncommon for any tribe to be given permission to construct and operate a casino off reservation land and in this case that is exactly what the Spokanes are doing. To be given this permission the IGRA requires tribes to meet two prerequisites; one of which is providing proof that the proposed casino would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, including nearby Indian tribes.

The Spokanes Defense

The Spokane Tribe sees the situation much differently. They make the claim that the Kalispels are attempting to block the development of fair competition in the area. In 1996, when the Kalispels first began the process of setting up the Northern Quest Casino, the Spokane Tribe opposed its construction. They claimed that the development of the casino would negatively impact their Two Rivers and Chewelah casinos, which are both located in Stevens County.

The proposed casino is set to open as the West Plains Casino and is located at the site of the battles between the Spokanes and Col. George Wright in 1858. The Spokane Tribe insists that they are constructing the new casino in the heart of their ancestral homeland and have every right to do so.

Nearly a year ago the Spokane Tribe was granted permission to proceed with the $400 million project that was first introduced ten years ago. Over those ten years, civic leaders vehemently opposed the opening of a new casino, yet the Spokanes believe that the casino will help community members living in poverty by providing thousands of jobs.