- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The Spokane Tribe has won approval from the federal government in its effort to build an off-reservation casino in Airway Heights.

The U.S. Department of the Interior told Gov. Jay Inslee in a letter Monday that the project is in the best interests of the tribe and not harmful to the surrounding community, The Spokesman-Review reported https://is.gd/iSTaTF .

The agency has not announced its decision, but several state lawmakers released a letter Monday criticizing it. Some worry the casino would be built too close to Fairchild Air Force Base, a dominant economic engine for the Inland Northwest.

Inslee’s spokesman said the governor received a notice from the federal agency but declined to comment on what it said until the office had a chance to study it.

Spokane Tribal Council Chairman Rudy Peone said it’s gratifying to get the Interior Department’s approval. He says the tribe wants to create jobs and economic opportunities.



“We want to create jobs and economic opportunity for our tribe and the entire community,” Peone said.

Four Democratic legislators from Western Washington released a letter Monday evening slamming the federal government for giving the tribe the green light on the casino.

“The implications of this decision are deeply troubling for our region and our state and we are calling on Governor Inslee to deny the Spokane Tribe’s application,” wrote Reps. Christopher Hurst, Brian Blake and Dean Takko, and Sen. Brian Hatfield. It could “open the floodgates to gaming in every community in our state, whether the local community wants it or not.”

The land is off the Spokane’s reservation, but the tribe owns it. It’s a traditional encampment area where the tribe was camped more than 100 years ago at the start of battles between the U.S. cavalry and some native tribes.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com

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