Georgene Rice of KPDQ-FM interviews Nick Graham with the Oregon Family Council, discusses the proposed off Reservation Columbia Gorge Casino near Cascade Locks (not to be confused with Ballot Measure 75 which would place a private non-tribal casino in Wood Village).
Georgene: First of all, bring our listeners up to date on this proposed this off reservation casino, who’s pushing it? Where would it be and why?
Nick: This has been several years in the making. Who is pushing it is the Warm Springs Tribe, who are located primarily in Madras, in the central part of the state. They currently have a casino, Kaneetah Casino. The Kaneetah Casino is not performing to the level they would like. Each tribe in Oregon has the right to own one casino on historical tribal land. That’s a federal rule and that has been place in for quite awhile. The tribes rely heavily on the revenue from the casinos and if the casinos aren’t performing well, then it makes it difficult for them to maintain themselves as a tribe. They originally looked at Hood River, which didn’t want any kind of casino there, and I believe there was some historical tribal land that they could build on. Then they looked down river to Cascade Locks…but it is 45 minutes from Portland…and it’s right in the middle of the Columbia River Gorge, a national scenic area. Our challenge has been, at the federal level, this is a huge complicated process to get this done. However, there are aspects of the project that have been approved…through the Department of the Interior….All along the way there are plenty of opportunities for people to voice their opinions, as to whether they think a massive casino in the Columbia River Gorge, 45 minutes away from a million families is a good thing for Oregon.
Georgene: As you mentioned, federal law allows one casino on tribal land. Would they have to change that because this would not be consider tribal land? Has that provision already been waived?
Nick: Part of the process that’s still moving forward is the process of bringing that land into a trust. It’s not currently tribal land….However, the tribes have to bring the land into trust and actually get it to a position where it would qualify technically by the letter of the law as tribal land. Then at that point, they need to get approval to build in the Columbia River Gorge National scenic area and all of the environmental impacts, both social environmental and physical environmental. There is also a massive freeway interchange that will need to be put in. Again, there are prospectives that look at this as job creation, an opportunity for a tribe that is having a difficult time to gain some good footing. But the Oregon Family Council doesn’t feel that gambling is the right solution to jobs for our state. We think it hurts families more than it helps.
Georgene: As far as you know, has the state of Oregon taken a position on this issue? I know they’re desperate for revenue and any source sounds good.
Nick: I would have to check my sources, but I haven’t seen any official endorsement of this project from the state of Oregon, but if I was interested in bringing jobs to the state and adding to the state coffers, I would certainly look at this as an ideal situation, particularly on the tax revenue side. But it’s impact both environmentally and socially within our neighborhoods, churches, schools, etc. It’s something that must be weighed in this consideration.
Georgene: Let’s talk about some of the reasons that Oregon Family Council opposes this mega casino.
Nick: First and foremost, statistics show that gambling hurts family and hurts people and it really takes away more than it gives to society. We feel that statistics show very clearly. There is a reason why and it seems very ironic to us that some of the largest portions of gambling revenue in Oregon are actually spent toward gambling addiction recovery. When those policies were put in place, there was a requirement put in that a high percentage of gambling revenue be spent on gambling addition recovery, which to me is very confusing message. I personally know people who have literally spent their life savings at video poker machines…Again, not everyone is going to become a gambling addict, but when we are trying to weigh, where are going to invest our resources in making our state as positive as we can…we don’t think a casino is the right answer.
Georgene: What can listeners do now as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as they are now taking public comment, to weigh in on this ongoing consideration?
Nick: There are several opportunities, right the best thing that listeners can do is to visit our website, at www.nogorgecasino.com and within that you can comment and fill in your message, there are some talking points and information about the casino and you can leave your name and address and it will be forwarded onto the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a comment. A more direct website would be www.nogorgecasinocomments.com
Georgene: I appreciate you bringing this to our attention, I know this has been a very long, drawn out process, it is ongoing and will be for quite some time.
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