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  • OUR VIEW

    Our View: Karuks have a head start on casino plans

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  • The Karuk Tribe in Northern California may still be at least a year away from opening a casino in Yreka, but the they are years ahead of the Coquilles, who want to open a smaller casino in Medford. If the Karuks' casino does open, it would likely lure gamblers from Southern Oregon looking for a full-fledged casino experience.
    The Karuk tribe, headquarted in Happy Camp, is California's second largest. The tribe has been working with federal officials for more than 10 years to gain approval for its plans.
    California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a compact between the state and the tribe last December. Last week, the Californian State Senate approved the compact as well.
    The tribe's website says it hoped to break ground in May of this year, with completion expected in the fall of 2015. They've missed that deadline, but the state approval was a big hurdle.
    Plans call for two phases, but when all is said and done, the casino will encompass 56,000 square feet of gaming space, a hotel and two restaurants. The casino will include up to1,500 slot machines as well as table games.
    That's a sharp contrast with the Coquilles' plans for a Class III Medford casino with 600 machines and no hotel. In addition to Gov. John Kitzhaber's stated opposition to the Medford casino proposal, it also has generated strong opposition from city leaders, who planned a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Department of the Interior Office of Indian Gaming and express their concerns.
    The Karuks also do not face opposition from the Cow Creek tribe, which operates the Seven Feathers casino in Canyonville. The Cow Creeks consider the Yreka proposal to be on Karuk aboriginal land, and therefore a legitimate tribal enterprise. They argue that the Coquilles' aboriginal land is in Coos Bay, not Jackson County.
    If the Coquilles do eventually win federal and state approval for their Medford casino proposal, which is a long shot, they will in all likelihood be bracketed on the north and the south by established, full-fledged casino operations. For them, that means that regulatory success is no guarantee of financial success.
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