The Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde has reportedly decided to end its long-running opposition to attempts by the rival Cowlitz Tribe to open the $510 million Ilani Casino near the town of La Center in southern Washington.
According to a statement issued via the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde’s own Smoke Signals newspaper, the Oregon tribe will not be asking the United States Supreme Court to review a late-July ruling from the United States Court Of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Circuit that upheld a 2014 decision issued by United States District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein.
In her ruling, Rothstein had decreed that Sally Jewell, United States Secretary Of The Interior, had been within her rights nine years ago in granting the Cowlitz Tribe a new 152-acre reservation despite the tribe only being recognized in 2000. The Washington tribe subsequently announced plans to construct its Ilani Casino on the bestowed land, which is only about 27 miles north of the region’s largest city, Portland.
The Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde operates the Spirit Mountain Casino approximately 112 miles south of the Ilani Casino, which is expected to open 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, and declared that it now intends to turn its efforts towards “other economic opportunities in the Portland area”.
“[The Confederated Tribes Of The] Grand Ronde has elected not to appeal the Cowlitz [Tribe] case to the United States Supreme Court,” Justin Martin, a lobbyist for the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde, told Smoke Signals. “Although La Center is outside the historic lands of the Cowlitz Tribe, [the Confederated Tribes Of The] Grand Ronde has decided to direct its current resources to completing the remodelling of the Spirit Mountain Casino on its reservation and future resources to the development of projects in [the Confederated Tribes Of The] Grand Ronde’s homelands and around Portland.”
The move by the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde follows May’s unanimous decision by officials for the nearby city of Vancouver to drop their opposition to the coming casino while Clark County, which operates three card rooms in La Center, has also pulled out of the case. This means that only a group calling itself Citizens Against Reservation Shopping and a trio of private landowners are still involved in the legal effort to stop the Ilani Casino from opening with the facility currently about 70% complete.
“We’ve made it a priority to fund our endowments and essential government programs for the benefit of our members,” Martin told the newspaper. “We will continue with these objectives and look to other opportunities that allow us to maintain and build upon those goals.”
Smoke Signals reported that the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde had consistently asserted throughout its legal proceedings that the traditional homelands of the Cowlitz Tribe sit about 60 miles north of La Center near the town of Toledo and that its opposition to the 2007 land-into-trust decision rested with this assertion.
“The [Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde] continues to believe it is wrong for the Cowlitz [Tribe] to build a casino in Clark County, a region historically belonging to the tribes and bands of the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde,” read a statement from Reyn Leno, Chairman for the Grand Ronde Tribal Council. “The Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde doesn’t believe that a tribe should be allowed to go reservation shopping outside [its] historic territory simply because [it has] identified a location that is more desirable because of its proximity to an urban area. We look forward to keeping our membership informed and are determined to forge ahead in a positive manner. In addition to how we respond to this decision, the tribe has initiated a major renovation of the Spirit Mountain Casino, is redeveloping the greyhound track at Wood Village and continues to explore options to build the Grand Ronde economy.”