Inslee guarded on tribe casino


OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee wouldn’t say Wednesday which way he’s leaning on the Spokane Tribe’s proposed casino on the West Plains. Inslee has the final ability to block the project near Fairchild Air Force Base even if federal officials sign off on it.

“It will be important for me to make the decision based on the facts and the evidence,” he said.

Inslee, taking questions at a morning news conference, said he would make “the right decision” but quickly added: “I won’t tell you what that is right now, because I have not made it.”

The decision will come after a “clean, academic, dispassionate review” but beyond that, he said he believed it was best not to discuss the casino or whether he would support more gambling facilities in the state.

“There are ramifications for the state beyond this specific application. I will be considering those in the decision,” Inslee said.

In his campaign for governor, Inslee received support from both the Spokane Tribe, which wants to build the casino, and the Kalispel Tribe, which owns the nearby Northern Quest casino and is opposed to the proposed facility. Each tribe gave Inslee $3,600, the maximum contribution from an individual source.

Overall, Indian tribes contributed $60,675 to Inslee’s gubernatorial campaign compared to $11,600 to his Republican opponent, Rob McKenna. Neither the Spokanes nor the Kalispels contributed to McKenna’s gubernatorial campaign.

Last week the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs released an environmental impact statement that said its preferred alternative was the largest of three construction options the Spokane Tribe has proposed for land north of U.S. Highway 2, across from the base. The agency continues to take comments before issuing its “record of decision,” after which the secretary of the interior must decide whether the casino is in the best interests of the tribe and the surrounding community. After that, Inslee must agree with the secretary’s decision before gambling can occur on the property.

The bureau looked at three construction options as well as building nothing on the property. It said a plan for a casino with about 98,500 square feet for electronic gaming devices and tables, a 300-room hotel with a 145-foot tower, restaurants, bars, convention space and a 96,000-square-foot shopping mall would produce the most revenue and best promote “tribal economic development, self sufficiency and strong tribal governments.”

An alternative with a retail development and casino but no hotel, and another with just a retail development would produce less revenue and the “no build” alternative would not meet the goals, the EIS concluded.