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Three Rivers Casino legal existence challenged in court

June 13, 2008

FLORENCE, OR - The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit to stop the operation of the Three Rivers Casino will go back to the trial judge to decide whether the governor has the legal authority to enter into a gaming agreement given the state’s constitutional ban on casinos.

A decision in this case could affect nine other Indian casinos in Oregon whose tribes have signed gaming compacts with the state. The state could appeal the decision to the Oregon Supreme Court.

For the past three years the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians have operated Three Rivers Casino at Florence but it has been opposed for five years by the People Against a Casino Town (PACT).  After years of court battles this decision was the first significant legal victory for PACT.

“We’re finally going to have our day in court,” said Kristian Roggendorf, an attorney for PACT. “The governor doesn’t have the legal authority to sign these compacts. …The Oregon Constitution says there shall be no casinos. If casinos aren’t allowed, we can’t have one operating.”

Tribal Chairman Bob Garcia disagrees. He said that the outcome of the lawsuit will have no effect on the Three Rivers Casino because it operates on tribal lands that are sovereign lands held in trust by the federal government.

“We’ll be watching what happens with interest, but recognize that ultimately it is federal law that applies on federal lands and we are obeying all applicable federal laws,” said Garcia. “This is still a last-ditch effort. Lets say the compact isn’t valid. Does that mean gaming stops? No. The only way gaming gets stopped is by the federal government, if someone made a lawsuit in federal court. The worst-case scenario is the governor and the tribe would have to sign a new compact.”

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