The Kalispel Tribe of Indians in Washington state filed suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior last Wednesday, April 12, contending the U.S. government agency did not do its job when it approved the rival Spokane Tribe’s Airway Heights casino.

The Kalispel Tribe owns and operates the Northern Quest Casino about two miles from the upcoming Airway Heights Casino,  Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Spokane, owned by the Spokane Tribe and to be operated by Hard Rock International.

The Spokane Tribe’s headquarters are in Wellpinit, Washington, surrounded by about 159,000 acres of reservation land, the closest boundary is less than an hour drive from their new casino.

The lawsuit states that the new casino “will have a devastating impact on Northern Quest, which funds nearly all of the Kalispel Tribe’s government operations.”

The Kalispel contend in their suit that federal law requires DOI to consider any adverse impact a new casino would have on existing tribal enterprises.

The Kalispel Tribe’s Reservation consists of 4,557 acres along the Pend Oreille River north of Spokane along with about 40 acres of trust land in Airway Heights where Northern Quest is located.

The Spokane Tribe released a statement today in response to the lawsuit which spoke of the ten-year process the casino concept has already gone through as well as their position that the casino location is in the heart of the tribe’s ancestral homeland. According to official tribal documents, the Spokane formerly lived on over three million acres of land prior to 1881 when several bands were split up.

The Spokane state that the DOI determined the Spokane Tribe Economic Project, which the casino is a part of, “is in the best interest of the Spokane Tribe and its members and is not detrimental to the surrounding community.”

The Kalispel Tribe has a single casino in Airway Heights (Spokane) a golf and country club in Spokane, and several other small enterprises.

The Spokane Tribe operate a casino in Chewelah and the Two Rivers Casino Resort in Davenport.

The first phase of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Spokane is reportedly scheduled to open this fall with 100,000 sq ft of gaming space, two restaurants, and an outdoor plaza. By 2026 about one million sq ft of retail, dining and an entertainment center are planned along with a 300 room hotel and convention center.

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