MEDFORD, Ore. — Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked the federal government to reject a proposal by an Oregon tribe to start a casino in Medford.
An expansion of casino gambling raises concerns such as increased crime and alcohol, drug and gambling abuse, he said Monday in letters to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
He also said the proposal from the Coquille Indian Tribe violates an agreement that limits casinos to one per tribe. There are nine tribal casinos in the state.
“I do not believe that expansion of casinos is good for Oregon, and to safeguard against an unprecedented expansion of gambling in this state, it should be of no surprise that I oppose this application,” Kitzhaber wrote to Stan Speaks, northwest regional director of the bureau.
The Coquille tribe has a casino in North Bend in Coos County.
It has bought a Medford bowling alley and a restaurant building and asked the bureau to put the land in a trust, a step toward reservation status, the Medford Mail Tribune reported.
The casino would offer video gambling but not table games. The tribe also has agreed to lease an adjacent golf course.
Kitzhaber said concerns raised by both Jackson County and the city of Medford went into his thinking.
A tribal spokesman, Ray Doering, said Kitzhaber’s opposition was disappointing but not surprising.
The one-per-tribe policy dates to 1997 and was to last for five years, Doering said. “That period has long since ended,” he said.
He said communities take a few years to warm up to the introduction of gambling.
“Never has the first introduction of gaming into a community been embraced,” he said.
The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians operates a casino in Canyonville, 70 miles north of Medford, and also opposes the Coquilles’ proposal as an opening to a “casino arms race.”