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Defeat Won’t Change Tribes’ Plans Spokane, Colville And Kalispell Tribes Never Even Endorsed Measure

State voters rejected another proposal to allow slot machines in Indian casinos Tuesday, but the failed initiative will not change Eastern Washington gaming activities.

The Spokane Tribe and the Colville Confederated Tribes will continue to offer about 1,000 slots each on their lands near Spokane.

And the tiny Kalispell Tribe, in northeast Washington, is sticking to its dream of building a glitzy casino in Airway Heights, about five miles west of Spokane.

The failed initiative doesn’t discourage the Kalispels or their business partner, Carnival, said Mike Patterson, Airway Heights city manager.

“They’d known the whole time it was going to fail,” he said. “Sure, if it had passed, (the Kalispels and their business partner, Carnival) could have made more money, but it wasn’t going to pass.”

The Spokanes, Colvilles and Kalispels didn’t even bother to back Initiative 671, which received support from only 44 percent of the voters.

The proposal would have allowed every tribe to operate 295 slot machines in exchange for spending 15 percent of the take on public programs.

Spokane and Colville tribal leaders saw no advantage to the scheme, seeing how it would have limited them to about 25 percent of the slots they now offer. Plus, it would have invited state regulators into their casinos.

The Spokanes’ slot-casinos are protected by a court order that states the Las Vegas-style gambling can continue until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determines the state’s authority to regulate Indian gaming.

The Colvilles have also launched slot casinos as they await the judge’s ruling on the Spokanes’ case.

Doreen Maloney, of Tribes for Responsible Gaming, said the initiative suffered from misinformation and misunderstandings.

The legal limbo of the Eastern Washington tribes “added to the confusion,” she said.

As for the Kalispels proposal, the Portland-based regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is now reviewing it.

If the BIA approves the casino project, it then needs the blessing of the Secretary of Interior and the governor.

Patterson said the BIA called Monday and asked the city for more information about potential impacts. “I’m under the impression if it gets over this hurdle it has a good chance of going through,” he said.

Ellen Murray Howe, who led the opposition to Initiative 671, said slot advocates should heed the public’s message.

“This is a clear mandate from the voters that they don’t want slot machines … in the state of Washington.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo