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Tribal casino should not be allowed in Medford

It’s a simple question: Should the Coquille Tribe be allowed to build and operate a Class II casino In Medford? The answer is just as simple: no.

If you’re reading this, you probably already share that opinion, but your wishes and the wishes of the vast majority of the people in the Rogue Valley are in imminent danger of being ignored.

Why shouldn’t the casino be allowed?

It’s against the law. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) says that a tribe cannot game outside its reservation unless it satisfies one of only a few narrow exceptions. The Coquille maintain that language in the Coquille Restoration Act (CRA) provides one such exception. But the authors of the CRA have specifically stated and written that the CRA should not be construed to do so.

Katie bar the door. There are nine federally recognized Native American Tribes in Oregon. If the Coquille are allowed to build a casino in Oregon outside of their ancestral lands and in spite of current laws, why shouldn’t all nine tribes be allowed the same? And why limit it to just Oregon tribes? The U.S. government recognizes 566 tribes. Should each one be allowed to build a casino wherever they choose?

One tribe, one casino. In order to prevent unchecked proliferation of casinos, Oregon has long embraced a policy allowing each recognized tribe to have one casino. The Coquille already have a casino, The Mill Casino in Coos Bay.

It’s bad for education. A Medford casino would significantly reduce the amount of money that the Oregon Lottery would have available to support funding for K-12 schools and other economic development efforts because a casino would put local lottery terminal retailers out of business.

It’s bad news for local nonprofits. A Class II casino has no obligation to give anything back to the community from which its revenue flows, but a Class III casino must donate a significant portion of its profit to the public benefit of its market areas. Since its beginning, Seven Feathers (a Class III casino) has given over $15 million to more than 100 nonprofit organizations of all types throughout Southern Oregon. Nonprofits that touch the lives of so many of our neighbors — Access Inc., Boys & Girls Clubs, Community Health Center, Community Works, Habitat for Humanity, Maslow Project, Mediation Works, Muscular Dystrophy Association, RCC, Sanctuary One, Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit, The United Way and the YMCA to name a very few. The Cow Creek tribe’s tradition of giving to Jackson County nonprofits far exceeds their legal obligation, and that giving would be severely affected by a Medford casino.

It will be a drain on the local economy. The published goal of the Coquille proposal is to support members of their own tribal community, almost all of whom live in Coos County. To accomplish that stated goal, the money would necessarily flow out of Jackson County and into Coos County. And to build the casino in Medford, the land would be put into the Coquille’s trust, which would take it outside the legal jurisdiction (and tax base) of Jackson County.

No means no. Through our elected officials, we've already said no. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners, the Medford City Council, the governor, our local state representatives and senators and the overwhelming majority of Oregon’s federal congressional delegation have all rejected the idea of this casino. Gov. Kate Brown has asked the federal government to oppose this proposal, and has stated her view that the unchecked proliferation of casinos would be “...  to the detriment of the public welfare.”

So, then, what’s the problem? The decision to allow this project now rests with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a division of the Department of the Interior. One person in Washington, D.C. can, with an erroneous reading of the law, override not only that law but also the wishes of the vast majority of Jackson County residents.

What can I do? Go to ProtectOregon.com. Get informed. Voice your opinion. Send an email to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Don’t wait.

No dog in this fight. Who is this guy? I’ve lived in Jackson County for 40-plus years, raised my children here, I’m involved with the marketing and the arts communities and I’ve got no connection with either side of this issue.

— Brian Fraser lives in Ashland.