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Cowlitz Casino Plans Approved by US Government

Dec 26, 2010
Author: Michael Mancini
Cowlitz Casino Plans Approved by US Government

The Department of the Interior has approved an application by the Cowlitz Tribe of Native Americans that would allow them to build a casino resort in Clark County, Washington. Although the casino would be located across the Columbia River in Washington, it would become the closest casino to the major city of Portland, Oregon.

Several groups had been developing plans to build a casino in Clark County, but the approval of the federal government will put the Cowlitz Tribe well ahead of the competition. According to a report in The Oregonian, The tribe believes they may be able to have a casino up and running in as little as three years.

While the casino was originally envisioned as a massive casino-hotel, the struggling economy seems to have scaled back some of these plans. According to Cowlitz Tribe Chairman William Iyall, the complex will now be developed in stages. The casino will come first, after which a hotel will likely be added in a later stage of development.

Several groups opposed the development of a new casino project in Clark County. Locally, several card rooms were strongly against the casino; since the casino is expected to include a 20-table poker room, it would certainly cut into their share of the poker market.

Across the border in Oregon, opposition came from the Spirit Mountain Casino, operated by the Grand Ronde tribes and located just 60 miles southwest of Portland. According to a spokesperson for the tribe, they believe that the Cowlitz Tribe does not have the legal authority to open a casino because they were not recognized by the federal government until 2000. A Supreme Court ruling declared that tribes recognized after 1934 cannot take land into trust. However, the Cowlitz Tribe disagrees that this ruling affects their casino.


"Obviously the federal government doesn't think that's the case or they wouldn't have issued the decision," said Iyall.

The Cowlitz are actually composed of two separate tribes, both of which originally resided on land in what is now Washington state. They were officially recognized by the United States government in 2000, and are in the process of establishing reservation lands in the area near Longview, Washington.

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