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Feds Deny Medford Casino For Coquille Tribe

Liam Moriarty/JPR
One of several billboards displayed around Medford in 2015, as part of the Coquille Tribe's effort to gain public support for The Cedars at Bear Creek, a Class 2 casino the tribe hopes to build on property it owns in south Medford.

In 2013, Oregon's Coquille Indian tribe asked the federal government to take action that would allow the tribe to open a casino in Medford. After years of silence, the answer finally came last week … “No.”

The Coquille wanted the Interior Department to take a small parcel of land the tribe had bought in south Medford into trust, essentially making it part of the tribe’s reservation near Coos Bay. That would allow the Coquille to build a Class 2 casino, with bingo and video betting but no blackjack or other Las Vegas-style games.

But in a May 27th letter to tribal chair Brenda Meade, Deputy Assistant Secretary John Tahsuda denied the application. He said the casino’s potential economic benefits were outweighed by strong opposition.

Meade says she’s shocked.

"I’m disgusted with the fact that they’re not upholding their trust responsibility and really the promise made by Congress to have a process to go through," she says.

The decision cuts short what would have been a lengthy public process Meade says would have given the community a chance to learn more about the casino proposal and have a say about it.

The Coquille promoted the casino as an economic engine for Medford, as well as the tribe. But the proposal faced strong opposition from local and state governments and elected officials.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians also opposed the project, fearing competition with their own casino in Canyonville, about an hour’s drive north of Medford

Coquille tribal officials say they’re weighing their legal options.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.