Siletz submit application to build casino north of Salem

The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians has filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Gaming to build a casino on this parcel of land off Interstate 5 north of Salem at the Portland Road NE exit. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)

(Editor’s note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available.)

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

SALEM – The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians has filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Gaming in Washington, D.C., to build a casino north of Salem.

“I can confirm that the application was submitted and is in the very early stages of review,” said Paula Hart, director of the Office of Indian Gaming, in an e-mail.

In May 2017, the Siletz Tribe proposed a 140,000-square-foot inter-Tribal casino north of Salem that would be built on a 20-acre trust land parcel near Interstate 5 at the Portland Road NE exit. They predicted it would create 1,500 full-time jobs and make $184.5 million in revenue.

The Siletz proposed that revenues would be split with 25 percent going to the state, 25 percent to their Tribe, and 50 percent divvied up between the other eight federally recognized Tribes in Oregon – slightly more than 6 percent per Tribe if split evenly.

However, the new proposal would be a Siletz-only casino after objections from other Tribes scuttled the previous project.

Grand Ronde Tribal lobbyist Justin Martin said at the time that a casino off Interstate 5 near Salem would be “devastating” to the Grand Ronde Tribe’s Spirit Mountain Casino, which is currently the closest gaming enterprise to the Salem market.

The Siletz Tribe’s Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City is 26 miles farther away from Salem than Spirit Mountain.

Calls to Siletz Tribal Chairwoman Dee Pigsley were not returned before the posting of this story.

Proposals for a north Salem casino from the Siletz Tribe date back to the 1990s and also faced strong opposition then. A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 1997 upheld a governor’s ability to limit or deny gaming facilities in urban areas and then-Gov. John Kitzhaber was opposed to building casinos off-Reservation.

The Siletz Tribe would need approval from the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown before proceeding. The state’s current gaming policy remains one casino per Tribe on Reservation land.

An e-mail to Brown’s current press secretary, Elizabeth Merah, was not answered before the posting of this story.

Meanwhile, the Siletz and Grand Ronde Tribes are working together to develop the nearby 15.7-acre Chemawa Station property, which the two Tribes have owned since 2002.