COOS BAY — Should a new Class II gaming facility be built in Coos Bay?
That’s the question posed by the tribal council of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians to its members.
The idea is raising some members’ eyebrows.
“We don’t know enough about it to support it,” said David Petrie, one of a few tribal members who are questioning the proposal.
The tribal council mailed a proposal letter in October to its members with basic plans for a facility, which would be located on the tribe’s property by Wallace Street just off Ocean Boulevard. The building would be in addition to the tribe’s proposed hotel on the Hollering Place lot.
Class II facilities by definition include bingo and other chance games and exclude slot machines.
“It’s like the one the Coquille want in Medford, the difference is that’s our tribal reservation,” said Bob Garcia, tribal chairman.
Garcia said they were asking tribal members’ opinions on the facility.
“We’re considering proposals and are in the decision-making process,” Garcia said.
The letter sent to tribal members listed several benefits for the tribe: jobs, asserting its heritage, much-needed revenue and little risk. It said 40-50 new jobs would be created, with preferential hiring going to members.
“Coos Bay is the ancestral territory of the Coos Indians,” the letter said. “The project is literally an opportunity to fly our flag in the heart of our territory.”
Independent consultants reported the facility should be profitable, and the tribe wouldn’t have to put any of its assets in jeopardy, it said.
Some tribal members don’t see it that way.
“There hasn’t been enough return from the Three Rivers since its inception in 2004 to cause interest in the tribal members,” said Petrie.
Three Rivers is a Class III facility, with slot machines and hotel in Florence.
Some question whether another facility can survive, given the proximity to casinos such as Three Rivers and The Mill.
“I don’t believe the community can support another gaming facility,” Petrie said.
Although the letter asked for members’ opinions, it also said the tribal council had the last word.
“We will continue to provide the courtesy of briefings to our neighbors and to other governments, but we alone will make the final decision,” the letter said.
Statements like that irritated members like Petrie.
“They made it clear the council would make the decision no matter what,” Petrie said. “I’m so disturbed by this dictatorship.”
Petrie also said he and others were concerned about the facility’s proximity to the Tribal Hall, which would expose children to the “gaming environment.”
Rodger Craddock, Coos Bay city manager, said the Urban Renewal Agency knew of the tribe’s proposed plans for a gaming facility on its property when they approved their plan for the hotel. The city wasn’t concerned, since the tribe can do what they want with their land, he said.
“It’s lawful activity,” Craddock said. “I don’t believe the city has a say in the matter.”
He said the main thing he was worried about was traffic control in and out of the facility, since it lies on a busy street, Cape Arago Highway.
“We have concerns regarding traffic patterns,” Craddock said.
He said he wasn’t sure how much traffic to expect.
Garcia declined to comment on specifics, such as size or revenue, due to the project’s early stages. He said they’d be making an announcement on it in the next couple of weeks.
“There really isn’t anything we can say about it yet,” Garcia said.
Reporter Emily Thornton can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249 or at email@example.com or on Twitter: @EmilyK_Thornton.