Casino to break ground

On March 2, the Bureau of Indian Affairs accepted the Snoqualmie Tribe's application to put 56 acres of vacant land on Interstate 90 at Exit 27 into trust for the Snoqualmie Tribe.

The land is intended to be used for the Tribe's Casino Snoqualmie plans.

This means that the land has been designated as reservation land, explained Snoqualmie Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson.

"We're relieved and excited to finally be able to proceed," Mattson said.

In 2000, the 597-member Tribe put in an application for review by the bureau based on possible land-use options that were both within historical Snoqualmie Tribe territory and commercially viable. The land was put into trust as federal government property in late 2001.

During the review process, the Tribe gathered local community input and produced environmental assessments, which the federal government evaluated along with the location of the land.

In 2004, the Tribe and the city of Snoqualmie reached an agreement that outlined how the Tribe would contribute to support emergency services and infrastructure in the city.

Now that the Tribe can go ahead with its casino plans, Mattson said, "It means an opportunity to raise the standard of living by enabling the Tribe to invest" in social and health related services such as senior housing and health care, as all proceeds from the casino will go directly to the tribal government.

Ground breaking for the project is set to take place this spring, and construction of the 150,000-square-foot casino is expected to be complete by fall of 2007.

The initial cost of the casino was estimated at $70 million, Mattson said. That was two years ago. Nowthe price has grown to $90 million, although he did not have specific numbers available.

The casino will offer Vegas and traditional gaming, three restaurants, a cigar bar, live music, dancing and will allow smoking, as the recent state smoking ban does not apply to tribal land.

It will employ between 700 and 800 people, Mattson said. Most are expected to be non-native.

Currently, the nearest casinos and non-Indian card rooms are located in Auburn, Kirkland and Tulalip.

The Snoqualmie Tribe is also working with the Snoqualmie City Council to develop an interpretative center.

In 1953, the Snoqualmie Tribe lost its federal recognition that had been established in 1855 when federal policies limited recognition only to tribes having reservations.

The Tribe's status was reinstated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1999 based on evidence that the Tribe had maintained a continuous community. To be a member of the Snoqualmie Tribe, one must apply for membership and demonstrate an ancestral connection and a one-eighth blood line.

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