City weighs in on Salem casino plan

The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz has submitted a proposal to build a 180,000 square foot casino just southeast of Keizer in Salem. The effort moves the project, originally announced in 2017, a step closer to realization provided all the appropriate regulating bodies sign off on the project. 

The site would be just east of Interstate 5, north of Portland Road near Harbor Freight Tools on Off-Reservation Trust Land owned by the confederated tribes. The proposal sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), part of the U.S. Department of Interior, is slightly more detailed this time around. 

In addition to a hotel with up to 500 rooms, the casino – which could have up to 2,000 gaming devices and 45 gaming tables – could include three restaurants, a food court, a night club, a sports bar, a multi-purpose event center and all the associated parking. 

The original 2017 proposal predicted the creation of 1,500 jobs and potential annual revenues of up to $184.5 million. 

As a result of moving into the next phase, the BIA is requesting comments from interested parties near the site, which includes the City of Keizer. The Keizer City Council approved a letter asking officials to consider impacts to the Chemawa-Interstate 5 intersection and the effects on housing. 

Mayor Cathy Clark was the main proponent behind pushing transportation impacts to the forefront. Councilor Kim Freeman championed consideration of housing impacts.

On transportation, the letter states, “The Interstate 5 corridor has limited capacity and the significant additional traffic to a facility like this will bring has the potential to overwhelm the system.”

On housing, the letter asks the tribe to consider constructing workforce housing as a component of the overall plan. “We believe this is a critical element to make certain that the employees of the casino can obtain housing with rents that are commensurate with wages,” the letter states. 

The state’s current gaming policy remains one casino per tribe on reservation land. A potential Salem casino has long been a part of local conversations, the original proposal was put forward in the 1990s and Oregon’s governor was given veto power over any potential off-reservation casinos in a 1997 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision. 

The Siletz Tribe would need approval from the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown before proceeding. 

The Siletz proposed splitting any potential revenues with 25 percent going to the state, 25 percent to the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, and 50 percent divvied up between eight federally recognized tribes in Oregon.