Siletz, Coquille Tribes withdraw from Oregon Tribal Gaming Alliance
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Coquille Indian Tribe have withdrawn from the Oregon Tribal Gaming Alliance, an 18-year-old coalition of federally recognized Tribes within the state that own and operate casinos.
Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier, who also is vice chair of the Tribal Gaming Alliance, announced the withdrawal of the Siletz Tribe at the Tuesday, Aug. 30, Legislative Action Committee meeting.
The Gaming Alliance has scrubbed the Siletz and Coquille Tribes and their respective casinos, Chinook Winds in Lincoln City and the Mill Casino in North Bend, from its website at otga.net.
The Gaming Alliance now consists of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Tribes, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians, Klamath Tribes, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indians and the Burns Paiute Tribe. The Warm Springs Tribe also is not a member.
“This isn’t the first time they have withdrawn,” said Tribal lobbyist Justin Martin about the Siletz Tribe. “OTGA is a consensus organization, so even the issues they have concerns about wouldn’t have had any action because all Tribes don’t agree on off-Reservation policy.”
The Siletz Tribe approved a resolution on May 20 to withdraw from the Gaming Alliance and it was received by the organization in mid-June. The Coquille Indian Tribe passed a resolution on July 5 that was received by the Gaming Alliance on July 25. Both are considered “internal documents” that the Gaming Alliance declined to release.
Both the Siletz and Coquille Tribes did not respond to e-mail requests from Smoke Signals seeking copies of their respective resolutions.
Martin said Siletz’s withdrawal, along with that of the Coquille Indian Tribe, will not have an effect on the Gaming Alliance.
“OTGA’s main objective is collecting data to use to educate elected officials, the general public and the news media about Tribal gaming in Oregon,” he said.
Siletz’s and Coquille’s withdrawals from the Tribal Gaming Alliance may be part of both Tribes’ efforts to significantly alter Oregon’s long-standing policy of one casino per Tribe on Reservation land.
The Siletz Tribe filed an application with the Department of the Interior to build an 180,800-square-foot casino with 2,000 gaming devices and 45 table games north of downtown Salem in April 2020.
During a January 2022 Bureau of Indian Affairs virtual public hearing on the Siletz proposal, 21 of the 28 speakers were Grand Ronde Tribal members or employees who unanimously spoke in opposition to the idea of allowing the Siletz Tribe to leapfrog over Spirit Mountain Casino and build a second casino closer to Salem.
In 2017, the Siletz Tribe proposed building a second casino at the 20-acre site off Interstate 5 and splitting the proceeds with the state of Oregon and eight other federally recognized Tribes in Oregon. The Grand Ronde Tribe objected to that proposal as well.
The Salem market has become more important to Grand Ronde’s Spirit Mountain Casino following the Cowlitz Tribe opening Ilani Casino approximately 17 miles north of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area in April 2017.
The Siletz Tribe will need the approval of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Gov. Kate Brown or her successor before proceeding with its Salem proposal. The state’s current gaming policy would also have to be shelved.
In 2020, the Coquille Tribe attempted to get a 2.42-acre parcel in Medford – 170 miles from its administrative offices – placed into trust for a proposed second casino, the Cedars at Bear Creek. The proposed casino would have been adjacent to a nine-hole golf course and a planned 111-room hotel.
Should the long-standing state policy end, the Grand Ronde Tribe also is poised to seek permission to build a second casino at the former Multnomah Greyhound Park site in Wood Village just east of Portland. The Tribe purchased the property in December 2015 and is currently working to have it taken into trust.
Despite withdrawing from the Gaming Alliance, the Siletz Tribe hosted the Aug. 30 Oregon Tribes meeting at its casino in Lincoln City and continues to partner with the Grand Ronde Tribe in developing Chemawa Station in Keizer.
“To me, I don’t understand why a Tribe would withdraw from OTGA, but choose to belong to an organization that is a coalition of the nine Oregon Tribes,” Mercier said. “I’d have to think that gaming issues will eventually arise there.”