Spokane urged to reconsider tribe casino plan

SPOKANE — The Spokane City Council should reconsider its opposition to a casino proposed in Airway Heights by the Spokane Tribe as way to repair relations, the council president said.

About two years ago, the council voted 4-3 to oppose the project.

The council now has a new makeup and Council President Ben Stuckart wants to shift the panel back to a neutral position, the Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday.

He says he wants to mend the city’s relationship with the Spokane Tribe.

The proposed casino in the Spokane suburbs is awaiting approval from the federal and state governments.

Supporters say a new casino would create hundreds of new jobs. Opponents argue it’s too close to Fairchild Air Force Base and fear a new casino might prompt the eventual closure of the base.

They also say it would create competition for the existing Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights.

The long-running casino fight has deeply split the Spokane business and political establishment.

Among the most ardent opponents of a new casino is the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, which runs the Northern Quest Casino.

To make the city neutral on a new casino, Stuckart will need the vote of new Councilwoman Candace Mumm, who said she is undecided on the issue.

Mayor David Condon, who opposes the casino, said it’s too late for the city to change positions.

“We have the same concerns that have been voiced by our professional staff,” Condon said.

For the off-reservation casino to win approval, the secretary of Interior, who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, must determine the casino is in the best interest of the Spokane Tribe and not detrimental to the surrounding community. Gov. Jay Inslee would have the final say.

The public comment period has closed.

Stuckart said it’s important for the city to revise its position because it soured the city’s relationship with the Spokane Tribe.

“It’s not in our jurisdiction,” Stuckart said. “We need to get back to a place where we’re dealing with each other respectfully.”

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori said revisiting the issue is a mistake.

“We’re gambling an air base for a casino,” Salvatori said. “I just don’t think it’s a good trade.”

Supporters note that the Air Force has not taken a stance against the casino.

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