- US President Biden's administration is reportedly expected to approve the off-reservation construction of a Native American tribe's casino. According to sources close to the matter, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs is set to green-light the Coquille Indian Tribe's casino in Medford, Oregon as soon as this week.1
- The effort by the Coquille tribe, also known as the Cedars at Bear Creek, has been ongoing for almost a decade, having first been proposed during former President Obama's administration. Critics, however, fear Biden is continuing Obama's trend of easing gaming and land-trust acquisition restrictions that they say will threaten the sovereign rights of tribal governments.2
- The Bureau opened its first environmental impact statement to public comment in November 2022. As the final version is set to be released soon, the agency has been met with criticism ranging from several regional tribes, tribes nationwide, and bipartisan lawmakers.1
- Such critics included the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, which represents 13 tribes in California, as well as the California Nations Indian Gaming Association and Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.). A main point of contention relates to the proposed casino's potential impact on neighboring tribes, such as the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.2
- Last year, Wyden, Merkley, and Padilla wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, stating that 'it will likely lead to allout gaming conflicts between Oregon and California tribes.' They further argued that it would negatively impact their states' respective tribes that 'rely on the income generated by their gaming facilities and utilize those funds to provide vital governmental services.'1
- This comes as the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents 52 tribes, rejected a new sports betting initiative proposed by Kasey Thompson, a poker expert, and Reeve Collins, a founder of blockchain and cryptocurrency companies including Tether. Thompson said his goal is to end losses to offshore online sports betting by putting operations under the control of tribes and state regulation.3
- Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Public Radio Tulsa. This is a solid policy from the Biden administration. This discussion cannot forget to include how such policies impact smaller tribes. For example, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town in Oklahoma — both of whom haven't received much federal land compared to other tribes — are in desperate need of an off-reservation casino to help their citizens who only make an average of $1K per month. This is a balanced approach that takes into account multiple tribal nations.
- Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by KTVL. The Coquille tribe isn't taking into consideration the negative impact this off-reservation project will have on the future generations of Indians living within reservation boundaries. While opening up a casino more than 100 miles away from home will certainly bring in some revenue, the jobs it will create will be on non-native land, leaving Indians of all tribes without an opportunity to access such opportunities. This sets a bad precedent that can negatively impact many Native American tribes nationwide.