Tribe releases data to back casino plan

Coquille Indian Tribe shows how The Mill Casino benefits North Bend's businesses

The Mill Casino pumps more than $13 million a year into the coffers of North Bend vendors, and the Coquille Indian Tribe anticipates a gaming facility in Medford would help local landscapers, electricians and other merchants, as well.

"We try to use local businesses as much as possible," said Ray Doering, spokesman for the Coquille.

The Coquille released information this week that shows how much the North Bend casino, hotel and RV park rely on coastal businesses.

The $26 million casino proposed for Medford, known as The Cedars at Bear Creek, would be a smaller operation than the one in Coos County, so the amount spent on local vendors here would presumably be smaller, as well.

The proposed Medford casino would be built on the site of the still-operating Roxy Ann Lanes bowling alley and the former Kim's Restaurant on South Pacific Highway. The tribe also would lease the nearby Bear Creek Golf Course.

The Coquille tribe has asked the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the 2.42-acre property, excluding the golf course, in a government trust. The Kim's building would be razed to build a parking lot.

The Mill Casino features 723 video gaming machines. By comparison, Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville has 1,022 machines, and the facility proposed for Medford would have about 600 machines.

The Mill Casino spends about $12 million a year with local vendors, while the hotel spends in excess of $1 million and the RV park about $100,000, the tribe reported.

Doering said the hotel in North Bend sends all its laundry to an outside vendor. A local company paints the lines in the parking lot. A local firm maintains the landscaping.

The economic benefits of the casino have been much debated, but Medford city councilors didn't seem to be swayed by the latest numbers.

Councilor Chris Corcoran said the council will need a lot more information before it takes a firm stand on the casino.

"Anybody can get any kind of numbers to skew their opinion," he said.

The city is in for the long haul as the Coquilles continue their quest for a gaming facility in Medford.

"We want to protect our ability to have input into the decision," Corcoran said. "It's a process that has to play out right now."

Councilor Daniel Bunn said the Coquille tribe should follow the two-step determination process rather than shooting for a rapid approval from the federal government.

"That's the biggest hurdle for me," he said. "The way they're trying to proceed, the local government and the state don't have a voice in it."

Most casinos in the state have gone through a process that essentially gives the governor veto power over a proposed casino after the federal government has given its approval.

However, the Coquille tribe is asking for a gaming facility with only limited types of gambling that wouldn't require the governor's signature.

Bunn said he doesn't question the beneficial economic impact of a casino in Medford. He said The Mill Casino has been an important part of the Coos County economy.

Doering said the tribe doesn't want to cut anyone out of a chance to comment on the casino.

But, he said, the tribe is fully within its rights to avoid the two-step process.

"There is no reason to go through that process," he said. "This came up mainly because people want to delay or kill the project."

A year has already passed since the tribe first proposed the casino in Medford, and Doering said the federal process hasn't really begun. He said plenty of opportunities will be available for comments by the local government and state.

"We never asked anyone for blanket approval out of the gate," Doering said. "We're trying to make a sincere effort to do something good for the tribe and good for the community."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.



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