Eye On Olympia

Some GOP lawmakers to governor: Just say no to Spokane gambling deal...

In a last-minute appeal, three Yakima-area Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. Chris Gregoire to reject the proposed gambling compact between the state and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

The compact, they note, is "the most generous" one so far, allowing the Spokanes to have 900 of their own machines, rather than the 675 that all other tribes get now. (That's probably about to change, however. The state gambling commission will next month consider a proposed compact with every other gambling tribe in the state that would boost their allotments to 900 machines, too. Result: the current 18,225-machine statewide cap would rise to about 25,000 machines, although the statewide compact wouldn't allow additional casinos.)

"It is clear that other tribes are interested in the Spokane compact, and that if the compact is signed, the future will bring a continued expansion of gambling," wrote Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside and Reps. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside.

Their bigger worry, however, appears to be the large casino complex the Spokanes are contemplating for off-reservation land they recently bought near Airway Heights. Without a state gambling compact, the lawmakers note, it would be extremely difficult for the tribe to get rare federal permission for an off-reservation casino.

Honeyford made that point doubly by sending off a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. He wants Kempthorne to turn down the Spokane's Airway Heights casino request.

"Only three tribes in the nation have been allowed such an off-reservation facility, one of them in Washington State," Honeyford wrote, referring to the Kalispels' Northern Quest casino. "If the Spokanes are approved, half of all off-reservation gaming in the nation will be located in Washington."

What the feds will do is anyone's guess at this point. But Gregoire, while repeatedly saying that she doesn't like gambling, has said that she's likely to sign the state compact with the Spokanes. The alternative to negotiate with the tribes, she said, would be to invite a lawsuit that could leave the state wide-open to an explosion of tribal gaming.

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