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Snoqualmie Tribe casino ownership goes to court

SNOQUALMIE - The Snoqualmie Tribe is waiting on one last but very important question to be resolved before moving ahead with a proposed casino off North Bend Way outside of Snoqualmie: who is going to own it.

Thomas LeClaire, president of the company that is funding the development of the casino, MGU Development, filed a lawsuit last month with the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona. In the lawsuit, LeClaire asked that a ruling be made on who runs MGU; the man who put all the money into it, Jerry Moyes, or one of Moyes' former business associates, Jim Miller.

In 2001, the Tribe announced plans to build a $70-million, 150,000 square-foot casino on a 54-acre parcel north of North Bend Way and west of 384th Avenue. The Tribe has gotten the needed state approvals to build the casino, but has been waiting on federal approval for more than a year.

Moyes funded the creation of MGU with $16 million of his own money in loans and financial commitments that would go toward building the casino. According to Snoqualmie Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson, Moyes placed Miller in charge of MGU until issues involving his (Moyes) being involved in gambling were resolved. Moyes owns the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team and used to own part of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. Baseball rules prohibit Moyes from being involved in gambling, and hockey rules prohibit him from participating in sports gambling. Mattson said those are no longer issues since the Snoqualmie casino would not have sports gambling and Moyes had gotten rid of his share of the Diamondbacks baseball team.

In 2003, LeClaire was appointed to be president of the MGU companies, but Miller was still an employee. Mattson said there was some kind of falling out, however, this past year between Miller and Moyes, and now there is a question of who actually owns MGU.

Mattson said the lawsuit is out of the hands of the Tribe and they are anxiously awaiting the outcome.

"The best thing for the Tribe is to have it solved as expeditiously as possible," he said.

He also said that in the past, the Tribe dealt mostly with LeClaire.

"We never really dealt with Miller," Mattson said.

LeClaire's lawsuit asks that ownership of MGU be determined and that he be placed in charge on a temporary basis until the dispute is resolved.

MGU will get a cut from the receipts of the casino for the first five years it is open. Although a lot of money will go to paying back loans and other capital expenditure, Mattson estimated the casino will make $3-4 million a year. MGU would get 30 percent.

There was a hearing scheduled last week, but it was bumped back to this week due to one of the defendants asking for a new judge.

Both Snoqualmie and Snoqualmie Tribe officials said the city of Snoqualmie is not at any risk, regardless of how the lawsuit or the casino ends up. Snoqualmie had come to an agreement to provide the Tribe with sewer and public safety services for the casino. Snoqualmie Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher said that work has, and would continue to be, funded by MGU.

"We are not worried at all," Fletcher said.

Jim Miller and Thomas LeClaire could not be reached for comment.

Editor Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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