SPOKANE, Wash. – The Kalispel Tribe has filed a lawsuit in District Court against the Department of Interior over the building of a new casino near Northern Quest.
The suit, filed on April 12, claims the Department of Interior’s decision to allow the Spokane Tribe to build a casino two miles from the tribe’s existing casino will jeopardize the operation of their government. They are asking the court to halt the building of the new casino. They are also asking for a declaratory judgment that the Bureau of Indian Affairs violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
The land the Spokane Tribe is building on is newly acquired and allowing gambling on the land violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which prohibits Class III gaming on lands acquired after 1988, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states there are exceptions to the law known as a “two-part determination.” With this exception, gaming can happen on newly acquired lands after the Secretary of Interior consults the tribe, state and local officials as well as other nearby tribes and determines that a casino would be in the best interest of the tribe and would not hurt the surrounding community.
According to the lawsuit, the Kalispel Tribe provided detailed economic data that showed that a casino near Northern Quest would impact the Kalispel Tribe’s government revenues and would force them to reduce governmental services to its members. The suit claims the Department of Interior’s contractor dismissed most of that data. The tribe also claims that the department abused their discretion and failed to comply with IGRA and federal trust responsibility.
“Unfortunately, because the BIA ignored our comments and extensive expert analysis during its decision-making process, legal action is the only avenue available to us to protect a sustainable economic future for our people. We support the Spokane Tribe’s goal to develop more economic opportunity, but not at the cost of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and our future generations,” said Executive Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Curt Holmes.
On Tuesday, Spokane Tribal Council Chair Carol Evans responded to the lawsuit saying, “The United States Department of Interior approved the Spokane Tribe’s new casino, located in the heart of our ancestral homeland, only after engaging in a rigorous, comprehensive ten-year review process. Governor Jay Inslee then concurred in Interior’s decision after a year-long review of the record and after meeting with key stakeholders. Simply put, Interior correctly administered the review process and ultimately made the right decision. We stand ready to assist the Department of Justice in defending against the Kalispel Tribe’s lawsuit, which boils down to an argument that the Government is somehow required to insulate Kalispel’s gaming monopoly against fair competition from us, the resident Tribe, despite our significant unmet needs.”
Spokane Tribal leaders said they are thankful for the final approval of the federal and state process. They said the project has brought construction jobs in the area and is boosting the local economy.