Colville Tribes Awaits Approval for Proposed Casino in Tri-Cities

Colville Tribes Awaits Approval for Proposed Casino in Tri-CitiesThe Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are seeking approval from the Office of Indian Gaming within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for the establishment of the region’s first-ever tribal casino in the Tri-Cities area. Cody Desautel, the tribe’s executive director, has announced that a decision on its application to transfer tribe-owned land in Pasco to a federal trust is expected by late 2024 or early 2025.

Tribal leaders recently had a meeting with their Pasco counterparts to discuss the casino and hotel plans for the Colville-owned property north of King City. The tribes have already started the BIA process back in April. The Colville tribe is currently answering questions and anticipates the BIA to launch a federal environmental impact statement process by releasing a notice in the federal register.

During an update presented to the Port of Pasco commission on August 23, Mr. Desautel said they will diligently respond to all their queries, but the decision is in BIA’s hands. Two weeks earlier, a similar presentation was held at the Pasco City Council.

With an estimated revenue of $3.1 billion from the tribal gambling industry in 2022, the Colville Tribe is on track to open the first tribal casino in the Tri-Cities area. Currently, the tribe manages three gambling facilities near or on its reservation in north-central Washington. While other casinos exist in the Tri-Cities, the closest tribal-owned gambling venues are the Wildhorse Casino and Resort in Pendleton, Ore., and the Legends Casino & Hotel in Toppenish, operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and Bands of the Yakama Nation, respectively.

What We Know about Colville Tribe’s Casino So Far?

Since the tribe embarked on the 16-step federal approval in April, the Colville Tribe’s vision for Pasco has remained unchanged. Although not many details about the tribe’s proposed casino venture are known, renderings disclose that a three-lined boulevard will lead to the hotel and casino from North Capitol, near Kartchner Street exit off Highway 395. The road passes a lake-like water feature.

Desautel said it is a strategic decision to withhold certain information about amenities with the purpose of streamlining the review process. As the Colville Tribe develops the property, it plans to take into account community needs and potentially acquire additional parcels to facilitate its economic development goals. The Pasco casino will create thousands of jobs and provide revenue to serve the 9,300 enrolled members. The Colville Tribe includes 12 tribes from Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, Eastern Oregon, and British Columbia.

The groundwork for the Pasco venture was laid in 2019 when the Colville Tribe purchased four parcels totaling nearly 200 acres in Pasco in 2019. The tribe unveiled plans to establish a casino and other businesses on the property, pointing to the success of its casinos at Lake Chelan, Coulee Dam, and Omak.

The Colville Tribe is on the Cusp of Receiving a Casino License

Colville’s 2002 tribal-state gaming compact reveals that casinos have significantly reduced the unemployment rate and generated millions supporting health care for its members. According to documents available through the Freedom of Information Act, the Colville Tribe is one of the most underprivileged groups.

The tribes signed agreements with local governments, including the City of Pasco, Franklin County PUD, the Franklin County Sheriff, and the Port of Pasco, to provide services for future development. The Colville Tribe considers Pasco a traditional homeland of several of its constituent tribes, more precisely Palus.

The 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan, authorizes tribal casinos and establishes the process of setting gambling venues outside tribal lands. In April, the Colville Tribe launched the fee-to-trust process for the Pasco land with the BIA under the Department of the Interior. Subsequent steps include an exhaustive Environmental Impact Review before the application for gaming approval on trust land is submitted.

The final approval rests with the Secretary of the Interior, with governor’s concurrence. Gov. Jay Inslee’s term will conclude before the decision, Washington governors have taken a positive approach toward tribal casino requests, which is evident from the fact that 27 tribes operate 35 casinos across the state.