Federal judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Spokane Tribe Casino location

In Washington and a federal judge has reportedly dismissed a lawsuit that had sought to invalidate the United States Department of the Interior’s 2015 land-into-trust approval for the Spokane Indian Tribe concerning a 145-acre parcel that now hosts its Spokane Tribe Casino.

Legal proceedings:

According to a Friday report from The Spokesman-Review newspaper, the legal action was filed by the fellow federally-recognized Kalispel Tribe of Indians in partnership with Spokane County in 2017 amid concerns that the new casino would adversely impact business at its own Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

Brawling bands:

The newspaper reported that the Kalispel Tribe of Indians had debuted the 250-room Northern Quest Resort and Casino on the eastern fringes of the city of Airway Heights in 2000 despite objections from the Spokane Indian Tribe that this facility would hurt revenues at its own Chewelah Casino and Two Rivers Resort properties, both of which are located about 52 miles away in neighboring Stevens County.

In response, the Spokane Indian Tribe reportedly subsequently successfully petitioned the federal government for permission to open its newest casino on a site situated on the opposite side of Airway Heights and only around four miles away from the Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

Contentious claim:

The Spokesman-Review reported that the Spokane Indian Tribe began welcoming guests to the $40 million first-phase of its Spokane Tribe Casino in January of last year and countered any criticism of the venue’s location by asserting that it had long considered the site to be part of its aboriginal territory. But, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians purportedly disagreed and filed a lawsuit while claiming that the new facility could cost its own gambling enterprise up to $43 million a year in lost revenues.

Judicial judgment:

However, Judge Frem Nielsen from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington reportedly sided with the Spokane Indian Tribe on Thursday by declaring that the federally government had not ‘violated the trust relationship’ it holds with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians by having granted the contentious Washington land-into-trust request.

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Judge Nielsen’s ruling reportedly read…

“In this situation, the interests of the Spokane [Indian Tribe] and the Kalispel [Tribe of Indians] are not aligned. Consequently, since the department fulfilled its statutory duty to examine the benefits and harm to all affected parties, the department did not violate the trust relationship.”

Revenue reasoning:

Regarding the allegation from the Kalispel Tribe of Indians that the appearance of a new casino so close to its Northern Quest Resort and Casino would hurt its own revenues, Judge Nielsen reportedly stated that this issue had already been ‘squarely addressed’ by the federal government.

Judge Nielsen’s ruling reportedly read…

“The department’s expert concluded that while the Kalispel [Tribe of Indians] may suffer in the short term [but that] eventually the profits would rebound and both tribes would benefit.”

Delighted defendant:

In reacting to Judge Nielsen’s decision, the Spokane Indian Tribe’s lead attorney, Scott Wheat, reportedly told The Spokesman-Review that his client is ‘very pleased’ and tha 7BALL t he believes the matter had been ‘well-argued’ by both sides.