Kalispel Tribe Challenges Federal Government in Court Over Spokane Tribe Casino Project Permission

The Kalispel Tribe has filed a legal complaint against the US Department of the Interior in District Court. The tribe is to sue the federal government for giving the Spokane Tribe the green light for building a new casino located near the Kalispel’s Northern Quest Casino.

The lawsuit, which was filed on April 12th, claims that the decision of the US Department of Interior to allow the building of a new casino in Airway Heights would endanger the operation of their government. The Kalispel Tribe has asked the Court to halt the process and has also challenged the competent authorities to investigate the violations of the National Environmental Policy Act that according to the tribe had been made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

According to the Kalispel Tribe, the permission received by the Spokane Tribe to build a gambling venue on the newly-acquired land has been made in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Under the provisions of the afore-mentioned Act, Class III gaming on lands purchased after 1988 is prohibited, so it is the Kalispel Tribe’s belief that the permission is not in line with the law. The tribe also said that the building process would have “a devastating impact” on Northern Quest as the territory is responsible for funding almost all the government operations of the Kalispel Tribe.

The Kalispel Tribe’s Reservation currently consists of over 4,500 acres north of Spokane, located along the Pend Oreille River. It also includes some trust land located in Airway Heights. Up to date, the tribe runs a single casino located in Airway Heights, a Spokane-located golf and country club, as well as a number of ther small enterprises. On the other hand, the Spokane Tribe runs a Chewelah-located casino and owns also the Two Rivers Casino Resort in Davenport.

The casino project of Spokane Tribe in Airway Heights would have a detrimental impact on the paramount social, public-safety, health and educational services depending on Kalispel casino funding, according to the tribe, as these services’ funding would be greatly reduced.

Ben Stuckart, President of the Spokane City Council President, explained that the process of consideration and determination was quite long, taking a decade for the authorities to give their permission for the project. According to Mr. Stuckart, not only was the determination process thorough enough, but the arguments of the Kalispel Tribe were insufficient, especially considering the fact that the latter were also expanding their operations in the region.

Phase one of the construction of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Spokane is expected to start in the autumn of 2017. It includes a 100,000 sq ft space occupied by a gaming area, two restaurants and an outdoor plaza. The project also includes an expansion through a 300-room hotel and convention centre, as well as retail, dining and entertainment centre that is to occupy about 1 million sq ft by 2026.

The lawsuit was also commented by the Council Chair of the Spokane Tribe, Carol Evans, who also explained that the process of consideration and determination was a comprehensive one. According to the statement released by the Spokane Tribe, the claims of the Kalispel Tribe are all about a single argument that the federal government must take care of keeping the gaming monopoly set by the Kalispel Tribe in the region.

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