BREAKING NEWS: Governor Kotek Voices Opposition to Medford Casino

Oregon’s newly elected governor officially declared her opposition to any expansions of gaming in the state on Thursday, and more specifically to a proposed casino in Medford.

“With this letter, I wish to state my opposition to the Coquille Tribe’s Medford Casino Project,” wrote Governor Tina Kotek in a letter addressed to each of Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes. “This proposal would not only lead to the expansion of gaming in that area but would create many more concerns about the expansion of gaming statewide.”

Kotek said that previous administrations have maintained the practice of “one casino per Tribe,” and indicated that will be her intention as well. For nearly 10 years, the Coquille Tribe has attempted to build a second casino in Medford, more than 150 miles from their existing casino and ancestral homeland in North Bend. In January and February, the Bureau of Indian Affairs heard public comment on the project.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians has maintained that an expansion of off-reservation gaming in Medford would harm all of Oregon’s Tribes, as well as Tribes in Northern California. Casino gaming revenue funds services for Tribal citizens, such as housing, education, healthcare, food security and social services. A decline in gaming revenue at Seven Feathers Casino Resort due to a casino in Medford, 70 miles away, could result in a 25% reduction in Cow Creek Tribal Government services.

“Throughout my legislative career, during my campaign for this office, and since the start of my administration, I have been clear that I do not favor an expansion of gaming,” wrote Kotek, referencing not only Tribal gaming, but state gaming as well. “Therefore, my policy on Tribal gaming facilities maintains the status quo from past governors.”

The letter was also addressed to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland. It is ultimately up to both agencies to determine whether to approve placing land into trust in Medford for the Coquille Tribe’s planned expansion. Haaland was in Bend last month for discussions with Oregon’s Tribal leaders.

“I remain committed to working closely with Tribes, the federal government, state agencies, and our broader communities to enhance Tribal affairs for the betterment of all our people,” Kotek wrote in closing.

In addition to Coquille’s project, there have been other proposals for expanded gaming in Oregon, including a private gaming establishment in Grants Pass, a casino in Salem, and sports betting.