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News / Northwest

1st tribal casino planned for Tri-Cities. What new documents reveal about the project

By Wendy Culverwell, Tri-City Herald
Published: April 12, 2024, 7:29am

KENNEWICK — The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation plan to build the Tri-Cities’ first tribal casino is entering a key phase of the federal approval process.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the lead agency reviewing the Colville proposal, plans a virtual public meeting at 6 p.m., April 24, to take comments on what an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should include. Written comments are due May 3.

Environmental impact assessments outline the impact of a proposed project on the surrounding environment, according to the American Bar Association. In the United States, the reports are mandated by federal law for certain projects.

The Colville intend to build a 184,200-square-foot casino, 200-room hotel, event center, restaurants and supporting facilities.

Go to colvilleeis.com to register and to submit comments. The EIS is a key step in reviewing the project under state and federal environmental regulations.

BIA is overseeing the complex process to place 165 acres of Colville-owned land off Highway 395 and Kartchner Street north of the King City Truck Stop into a federal trust.

The “Fee-to-Trust” process enables development of a casino, hotel, restaurants and related businesses at non-reservation sites under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.

12 Tribes brand

The Colville bought four parcels totaling more than 180 acres of Pasco farmland in 2019 specifically to build a a new edition of its 12 Tribes casino business in Tri-Cities, as well as a possible travel plaza and water park.

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The Colville, centered about 75 miles away in Ritzville, operate three 12 Tribes casinos, in Omak, Lake Chelan and Coulee Dam.

The casinos support improving the economic status of its about 8,700 members.

It started the federal approval last August when it submitted the fee-to-trust application to the federal agency. It previously signed agreements with the city of Pasco, Franklin County PUD, Franklin County Sheriff and the Port of Pasco to cooperate on future services.

The plan isn’t without critics, notably the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. The Yakama operate a single casino in Toppenish and are interested in expanding to a second location, potentially in the Tri-Cities.

Yakama object to project

The Yakama object to the Colville plan on territorial grounds, saying its rival has no right to open a casino in the Yakama’s ceded territory under an 1855 treaty.

The Colville consider Pasco the traditional homeland of several of its constituent tribes, notably the Palus and counter that the objections will be addressed through the federal review process.

The future casino site flanks North Capitol Avenue near the Kartchner exit and north of the AutoZone warehouse.

The tribes operate a small visitor center in a trailer on the smaller Kartchner-facing parcel, across from Love’s Truck Stop.

While there are private casinos in the Tri-Cities, there are no tribal operations nearby.

Wildhorse Casino and Resort near Pendleton, Ore., is operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, while Legends Casino & Hotel in Toppenish is operated by the Yakama.