County Claims New Casino Is Bad for Air Force Base

SPOKANE, Wash. (CN) – A county government in Washington state filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the construction of a tribal casino, arguing it will negatively impact a nearby Air Force base and could cause flight accidents.

Spokane County filed a lawsuit in Spokane federal court on Friday, seeking a reversal of an agency decision to approve the casino being built by the Spokane Tribe of Indians, claiming it will create new hazards for Fairchild Air Force base pilots because the casino is located in the base’s main flight path and may cause distractions and accidents.

The lawsuit also claims the casino will be detrimental to the local community by putting Fairchild higher on the list for a potential base closure.

The Interior Department is accused of defying “basic common sense” and overriding local elected officials’ opposition to the casino.

“By authorizing this casino, the Department will place thousands in harms’ way in an area of significantly heightened risk and will force the pilots who conduct training operations at Fairchild AFB to contend with additional hazards and distractions,” the complaint states.

Spokane County has not been the only entity in recent months to sue to stop the casino’s construction.

Another northwest tribe with a competing casino, the Kalispel Tribe, sued the Bureau of Indian Affairs in federal court in April, claiming a new casino less than two miles from its Northern Quest Casino could hurt business.

The Kalispel Tribe also notes that the new casino is being built on land the Spokane Tribe owns, but is not on their reservation.

However, the Spokane Tribe has said their new $40 million casino will support over 5,000 jobs with an annual payroll of $66 million. Construction of the casino has already begun and the Spokane Tribe plans to open the casino and restaurant later this year.

“Our studies show there is definitely room for two casinos,” Spokane Tribe Chairwoman Carol Evans told the Spokesman-Review newspaper. “We believe in healthy competition.”

Julie Wilson-McNerney, Spokane County’s attorney in the suit, declined to comment on the case.

The Department of Interior did not immediately respond Monday to an email request for comment.

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