Skokomish Tribe plans casino near race track

BREMERTON – The Skokomish Tribe wants to build a new casino on or near a proposed NASCAR raceway in Kitsap County, according to a letter sent this week to Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Tribal council leaders want to offer gaming at several off-reservation sites, including the proposed 81,500-seat racetrack south of the Bremerton National Airport, according to the letter dated Thursday.

The tribe already operates the Lucky Dog Casino on its reservation near Shelton. It’s also pursuing increased betting limits, longer operating hours and more gambling activities.

International Speedway Corp., based in Daytona, Fla., is proposing the new $300 million track and has already talked with the Skokomish and Squaxin Island tribes about the raceway, company officials said.

“We understand their goals,” ISC Vice President Grant Lynch said Friday. “We think they’d be a good neighbor.”

He later added, “If it’s something on Washington’s radar, and it’s something the citizens of Washington and Kitsap County want, we would be fine with it.”

ISC hasn’t submitted a formal proposal for the speedway, and local officials on Friday said they were unaware of such discussions between the company and the tribe until questioned about the issue.

“I am stunned,” said Chris Endresen, chairwoman of the Kitsap County Commission. “I am not a fan of gambling. I’m a supporter of Native American treaty rights, but I don’t think I would support off-reservation gaming.”

The tribe’s letter comes roughly two weeks after the state and Spokane Tribe of Indians negotiated a tentative gaming compact that would provide for revenue-sharing with the state – a first in Washington. It would allow the Spokane Tribe to pursue plans for a casino on trust land near a Spokane suburb, s well as remove betting limits at some of their card tables and allow more than twice as many pseudo-slot machines and casinos as other tribes.

That agreement must have federal, state and county approval. But it could have an “adverse economic impact” on the Skokomish, Denese LaClair, the council’s vice chairwoman, said in the letter to Gregoire.

A telephone message requesting further comment from Skokomish Tribe officials was not returned Friday.

For now, it’s too soon to know if the tribe’s proposal for a casino near the raceway is viable, said Arlene Dennistoun, a spokeswoman and attorney with the state Gambling Commission.

“On the face of it, no, but we’d have to examine the language provided in the Skokomish’s compact in addition to the Indian Gaming Act,” Dennistoun said.

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