- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The Kalispel Tribe sued the U.S. government Tuesday over its approval of a rival casino project by the Spokane Tribe in the lucrative eastern Washington state gambling market.

The lawsuit against the Department of the Interior involves the rare approval of an off-reservation casino about two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the Northern Quest Casino.

The new project “will have a devastating impact on Northern Quest, which funds nearly all of the Kalispel Tribe’s government operations,” said the lawsuit filed in federal court.

Federal law requires the Interior secretary to consider the detrimental impacts of a new casino on nearby Indian tribes, the lawsuit said.

The Spokane Tribe contends the Kalispels are seeking to avoid fair competition.

Spokane Tribal Council Chair Carol Evans said the new casino was approved last year by the Interior Department and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and “is located in the heart of our ancestral homeland.”

The Kalispels contend the Interior Department violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The lawsuit seeks to block the new casino now under construction on the plains just west of Spokane in the suburb of Airway Heights.

Inslee decided in June that the Spokanes can proceed with the $400 million project first proposed a decade ago, despite massive opposition from civic leaders in the region.

Leaders of the Spokane Tribe contend the casino will help lift members out of poverty by providing thousands of jobs.

Over the years, the Kalispels were able to enlist many Spokane political and business leaders as allies.

Inslee said he wanted to respect the sovereignty and economic development wishes of the Spokane Tribe, while generating millions of tax dollars for state and local governments.

The new project could take a decade to complete. It will include a casino, hotel, restaurants, convention facilities, bars, tribal cultural center, police and fire stations, spa and retail space.

It marks only the second time an off-reservation Indian casino has been approved in Washington state.

The first was Northern Quest, which has proven to be a successful business for the Kalispels.

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This story has been corrected by removing reference that Spokane Tribe’s hotel is a Hard Rock Hotel

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