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Warm Springs Tribe ink gorge casino pact

Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Wednesday signed a renegotiated tribal-state compact that allows the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs to construct and operate a casino in the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks.

Plans call for construction of the casino, plus a hotel and convention center, on industrial land in Cascade Locks. In return for state approval to build on that site, the tribe will transfer four parcels of environmentally fragile tribal land near the city of Hood River to the state, and has agreed to restrict use of an additional parcel.

The compact includes a revenue-sharing agreement and requires the creation of two new funds: one dedicated to environmental protection, economic development and higher-education opportunities, and the other dedicated to charitable organizations throughout the state.

The governor's office said the new casino will create hundreds of family-wage union jobs during construction and will support more than a thousand jobs in Cascade Locks once the facility is opened.

The tribe also is responsible for all costs, estimated at $20 million, associated with constructing a new interchange on Interstate 84. The tribe will work with the Oregon Department of Transportation on all highway improvements and to mitigate all transportation impacts on other roads.

The governor's office said Kulongoski intends to continue Oregon's "one-casino-per-tribe" policy. As part of this agreement, the tribe has agreed to close its casino at the Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge on the Warm Springs Reservation.

The revenue-sharing agreement calls for the Warm Springs Tribe to share 17 percent of its gross gaming revenue annually with other Oregonians. Under the agreement the tribe will deposit monies annually into a nonprofit entity called the Oregon Benefit Fund, which will be managed by an independent board.

Between 5 percent and 10 percent of the funds will be used for environmental purposes in the gorge. Another 5 percent may be used for economic development, and the remainder will be used for direct student assistance for postsecondary education in Oregon.

The tribe also agreed to create a Tribal Community Benefit Fund which will receive 6 percent of the facility's annual net income. That fund will primarily finance general charitable purposes as determined by the board of trustees according to the terms of the compact.
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Tuesday, February 13, 2024
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