Skip to main content

Federal Court Judge Hears Spokane Tribe Casino Lawsuit, Ruling Expected in the Summer

The beginning of the week saw a lawsuit seeking to block future Airway Heights-related plans of the Spokane Tribe Casino reach the courtroom of a federal judge.

The Spokane Tribe started construction works on its planned $40-million casino project back in 2016. This was the first phase of the tribe’s intentions to build a large casino resort estimated at $400 million. The site for the planned casino resort is situated 2 miles west of the Northern Quest Resort & Casino which has been owned and operated by the Kalispell Tribe since 2000.

In federal judge’s courtroom, the Kalispel Tribe’s attorney Zach Welcker argues that the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not manage to take into consideration how the Spokane Tribe’s planned casino venue would actually affect the already existing gambling operations of Northern Quest. According to data provided by Mr. Welcker, the revenue loss of the Kalispel Tribe’s casino facility is expected to amount to $43 million.

The summary judgment hearing which took place on June 17th seeks to see US District Court Judge Frem Nielsen make a decision on all parts of the case before it goes to a jury hearing. There is also another case, in which Spokane County is a plaintiff against the Spokane Tribe, as it is trying to prove that the establishment of a new casino venue would present a safety hazard to Fairchild Air Force Base that is situated nearby.

Spokane Tribe Claims Their Casino Approval is the Same

The 145 acres of land which are set to be used by the Spokane Tribe have long been considered as a location for its new venture as part of its aboriginal territory.

The first phase of the Spokane Tribe Casino construction was finalized at the beginning of 2018. It still remains unclear whether the small casino has had any impact on Northern Quest’s business environment, which has recently been expanded with expensive additions such as a movie theater and a new pub.

The attorney representing the Spokane Tribe, Danielle Spinelli, claimed that the decision of the Department of the Interior allowing the Spokane Tribe to build its casino resort in Airway Heights was correct. He also compared the decision with the one made by the federal agency in 1997, when the Kalispel Tribe got official approval for its venue which was built under similar circumstances. The Northern Quest Resort & Casino was given the nod by the former Governor Gary Locke in 1998.

As explained by Ms. Spinelli, part of the Northern Quest-generated revenue has been used by the Kalispel Tribe to spend on average 30 times the amount spent by the Spokane Tribe per tribal member on Government assistance. According to the Spokane Tribe’s legal representative, the new casino planned by the tribe would offer similar benefits of the Northern Quest Resort & Casino, without having a negative impact on the Kalispel Tribe.

The US District Court Judge Frem Nielsen is expected to make a ruling on the case in the summer.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.