PORTLAND — The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the governor's right to enter into tribal gambling compacts.
A group of property owners from the coastal city of Florence filed a lawsuit a decade ago claiming the Oregon Constitution prohibits casinos and the governor lacked the authority to sign a compact that allowed the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians to build its Three Rivers Casino & Hotel.
The Appeals Court opinion issued Thursday was written by Judge Lynn Nakamoto.
It supports a lower-court decision that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows tribal casinos in states that permit other entities to operate games of chance — the Oregon Lottery, for example.
She also wrote that the Legislature authorized the governor to enter into agreements that ensure Oregon does not infringe on tribal rights.
Kristian Roggendorf, an attorney for the property owners, said he planned to talk to his clients about filing a petition for review with the Oregon Supreme Court.
"It's far from over," he said Friday.
If his clients ultimately win, Roggendorf said, gambling at the already opened casino would have to stop until the Interior Secretary approves it.
Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the compact in early 2003 and the legal fight continued during Ted Kulongoski's two terms as governor. Kitzhaber returned to the job in 2011.
Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael said the governor's office is still reviewing the 26-page opinion but was pleased with the result.
The confederation was the last of Oregon's nine federally recognized tribes to get a casino. The casino opened in June 2004 and has since expanded to include more than 90 hotel rooms and several restaurants.
Opponents filed court challenges before ground was broken, concerned about the impact on Florence's charm and downtown businesses.