A federal lawsuit that seeks to stop the Cowlitz Tribe from opening its Ilani Casino in southern Washington is being almost entirely funded by private interests and the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde.
According to a report from The Columbian newspaper, Clark County in Washington, which operates three card rooms in the town of La Center, has paid “almost nothing” while the county seat of Vancouver put in about $187,000. This means that the majority of litigation costs have fallen on the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde, which operates the Spirit Mountain Casino in nearby Oregon, along with a group called Citizens Against Reservation Shopping.
“Absolutely, my clients have helped to fund this. No question,” John Bockmier, spokesperson for the trio of Clark County card rooms and a member of Vancouver-based public relations firm Shamrock 51 Productions, told the newspaper.
The Cowlitz Tribe broke ground on the $510 million Ilani Casino near the town of La Center in mid-February and expects to open the new venue located about 25 miles north of Portland, Oregon, in the spring complete with a 100,000 sq ft gaming floor offering 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables alongside multiple restaurants and meeting spaces.
The lawsuit filed in 2007 seeks to challenge a Bureau Of Indian Affairs decision that approved a land-into-trust application for the new casino as the Cowlitz Tribe was not federally recognized until 2000, which was long after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. The plaintiffs lost the first round in US District Court in February of 2014 but subsequently appealed to the DC Circuit Court Of Appeals citing a 2009 US Supreme Court ruling known as the Carcieri decision with a final ruling now expected before the end of the summer.
Last month saw the city of Vancouver pull out of the action over concerns that it could impede talks with the tribe that may benefit the communities of southwest Washington while Clark County paradoxically may be about to let the new development connect to the sewer system of La Center despite remaining committed to the lawsuit.