Too Much Of A Good Thing? Siletz Tribe Faces Market Saturation Concerns In New Oregon Casino Bid

Posted on July 24, 2020 - Last Updated on July 31, 2020

Regarding casino gaming near Salem, there are differences of opinions.

The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians would like to see gaming offerings expand, while other tribes are content with the status quo. Both parties have a vested interest in the future.

The Siletz Tribe has asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for approval to build a new “intertribal gaming facility” just north of the Oregon capital. However, other casino operators in the area have expressed concern, including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Details on plans made by the Siletz tribe

The most controversial aspect isn’t that the tribe wants to build another casino in Oregon, but rather where it wants to operate it. Location is everything.

The site north of Salem will affect the community and the likeliness that the proposed project is approved. Furthermore, the proposed site isn’t even on the Siletz reservation.

For that reason, the proposal faces a few more hurdles.

Gambling facilities on reservations face approval from the BIA and the Department of the Interior, and are subject to compacts with state governments. Because they are on sovereign land, however, that’s the extent of the scrutiny.

Off-reservation casinos, however, face additional scrutiny because states treat them like any other business. That means inquiries on how a potential casino will affect the local community.

The tribe wants to build a casino, with all the trimmings, just off I-5.

The 140,000-square-foot casino will feature bars, an events center, a hotel, restaurants,  and over 2,000 gaming devices. The tribe expects to create 1,500 new full-time jobs and gather over $184 million in revenue over the first year.

If the concerns of others in the area are founded, however, that may be too optimistic.

Dissent in local community, specifically other tribes

So far, the local community is proceeding with caution. Local governments have expressed concern about the proposed casino’s impact on infrastructure, problem gambling and revenue.

Perhaps the greatest voice of dissent has come from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, however. That group feels the Siletz’s second Oregon casino may infringe on their territory.

The Grand Ronde Tribe operates Spirit Mountain Casino, just 35 miles away from the Siletz’s proposed site.

In 2017, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in southern Washington, opened the ilani Casino Resort just north of Vancouver. Justin Martin, a lobbyist for the tribe, said the Grand Ronde commissioned a study in 2017 that said that casino would result in Spirit Mountain losing nearly 67% of its revenue.

The location may end up being a significant hurdle for the Siletz.

In 1992, a previous attempt by the tribe to build a casino in the same area failed when then-Gov. Barbara Roberts denied the application. It’s uncertain whether current Gov. Kate Brown will do the same.

So far, no state officials have weighed in, and that may not occur until after the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of the Interior have their say. Even Salem’s city council and the Polk County Commission have been mum so far.

Federal approval may not be the most significant hurdle, however. The Siletz Tribe may have to do the most selling to the neighbors of its potential casino site.

Derek Helling Avatar
Written by
Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

View all posts by Derek Helling