Medford casino fight gets political

MEDFORD, Ore.– A local Native American tribe is crying foul over what they believe is favoritism from Governor Kate Brown toward another southern Oregon tribe.

The Coquille Indian Tribe has been trying to build a small casino on land it owns in south Medford at Roxy Ann Lanes since 2012. Governor Brown and many other southern Oregon and state level politicians have come out against the move that would have to be approved by the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Now, Oregon Lottery says it’s working with the Roseburg-based Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians on some gaming options for the tribe’s truck and travel center.

“That’s scratch tickets, jackpot games and Keno,” said Matthew Shelby, public information officer for Oregon Lottery.

But that has the Coquille Tribe upset. It says no other tribes are being given such an opportunity and with Governor Brown coming out against their south Medford casino efforts and taking tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the Cow Creek – the Coquille say she isn’t playing fair.

“It’s almost the hypocrisy to see that she is now looking to work with the Cow Creek Tribe to open a gaming facility,” said Brenda Meade, tribal chairperson of the Coquille.

A spokeswoman for Governor Brown’s office denies any special treatment toward the Cow Creek and stated, “It is my understanding that Cow Creek approached Lottery about the travel center idea, not vice versa. The suggestion that Governor Brown approached Cow Creek for this project because of campaign support is outrageous.”

Lottery spokesman Matthew Shelby doesn’t know who originated the idea but referenced Governor Brown’s longtime associate and the head of the lottery, Barry Pack.

”Our director has a pretty good relationship with the tribe and I don’t know exactly who emailed who first but I do know we have been engaging with them for about a year or so,” he said.

Shelby says the lottery is approaching the plan as a pilot project and if it comes to fruition it will make the same model available to the other tribes.

In a statement, the Cow Creek Tribe told NBC5 News it was exploring the potential of other lottery options but it’s no longer pursuing the opportunity.

The Cow Creek Tribe was exploring the potential of offering lottery products as a retailer like hundreds of other lottery retailers across the state.

Those conversations ended and the Cow Creek is not pursuing that opportunity.

The issue Oregonians should be concerned about is the Coquille Medford casino proposal that would open the door to the proliferation of casinos across Oregon and it’s unfortunate that election year politics is masking the real issues Oregonians need to know about.”

Records show the Cow Creek tribe donates money to many political candidates on both sides of the aisle at many levels of government. That includes Republican gubernatorial candidate and state representative Knute Buehler.

The Cow Creek Tribe says no truck and travel center lottery plan has ever been presented to it’s board so no study even occurred.

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