Kalispel Tribe Is Watching Initiative 651 Passage Of Gambling Measure May Prompt Tribe To Consider Airway Heights Casino
The tribal gambling initiative on next week’s ballot could mean big winnings for the tiny Kalispel Tribe, which owns 40 acres of tribal trust land in Airway Heights.
The tribe plans a 30-bed residential adult alcohol and drug treatment center and business park on the property, located one mile north of U.S. Highway 2 along Hayford Road.
The tribe also has mulled the possibility of a bingo hall. But if Initiative 651 passes, the tribe may think bigger, said Dave Bonga, the tribe’s manager of planning, education and development.
The initiative would remove most state restrictions on tribal gambling, and allow slot machines on tribal land on and off reservations.
Because the parcel is trust land, not reservation land, the Kalispels would need permission from both the governor and the U.S. Department of the Interior before it could open a gambling casino there, Bonga said.
“It wouldn’t be all that easy. We would still have to go through all those hoops, even if the initiative passed. But if it did, the tribe would be crazy not to attempt it,” he said.
“Depending on how the initiative goes, it could influence the thinking of the tribe. But even if it happened it wouldn’t happen for a while.”
The Kalispel Tribe has roughly 50 percent unemployment, and could benefit greatly from the jobs and cash gambling could provide, Bonga said.
The tribe has 240 members and a reservation just one mile wide and 10 miles long near Cusick, 55 miles northeast of Spokane.
“It’s either floodplain or hillside. Beautiful, but there’s not enough land for timber, cattle leases, or big farms,” Bonga said.
Airway Heights would be a great spot for gambling, Bonga said. “On the East Side, it would be a real powerhouse.”
The town’s mayor, Don Harmon, said bingo would be fine, but he doesn’t want casino gambling on the land.
“My mother plays bingo. That’s not hard-core gambling,” he said. “But I’m not interested in any casino-type gambling here because of the possibility of criminal activity.”
The tribe acquired the property two years ago as a gift from owners of the Spokane Raceway Park, court records show.
Orville Moe, president of the raceway corporation, said tribal leaders and raceway owners have entered into a joint venture to develop a portion of the land as an industrial park.
The raceway wants an exhibition hall to attract dealers from around the Northwest interested in displays and shows of automotive parts and specialty gear.
Exactly how the property would be divided still is under discussion, Moe said. The Kalispels’ proposed treatment center and business park may go on 20 acres, and the industrial park on the other 20.
The business park could be home to Indian or non-Indian owned businesses, Bonga said. Plans for a construction company, security business, and strip mall including a gas station, convenience store, and fast food restaurant are being discussed.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:
Initiative 651 would:
Allow expanded gambling, including slot machines, on tribal land on and off reservations.
Remove all state restrictions on the size or number of gambling halls, size of bets placed, hours of operation, and type of gambling.
Greatly reduce state regulation of tribal gambling.
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer
Staff writer J. Todd Foster contributed to this story.
This sidebar appeared with the story: I-651 Initiative 651 would: Allow expanded gambling, including slot machines, on tribal land on and off reservations. Remove all state restrictions on the size or number of gambling halls, size of bets placed, hours of operation, and type of gambling. Greatly reduce state regulation of tribal gambling.
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer Staff writer J. Todd Foster contributed to this story.