UPDATED AT 5:07 p.m., 6/8/16.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced this afternoon that he has approved the Spokane Tribe of Indians’ STEP project in Airway Heights.
Inslee says in a press release that his decision concurs with the U.S. Department of Interior’s determination that the proposed casino would be in the best interest of the tribe and wouldn’t be detrimental to the community.
The proposed development required Inslee’s approval because it involves off-reservation gaming. Washington Gov. Gary Locke was the last to approve an off-reservation casino, when he approved development of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ Northern Quest casino in 1998.
Carol Evans, chairwoman for the Spokane Tribal Business Council, says the tribe hopes to break ground on the new casino as early as the end of this summer.
“That would be the first phase, which if all went according to the way we’ve planned, could be finished in a year,” Evans says.
She says the project’s demand and funding would be determining factors in establishing time frames for future phases.
STEP, which stands for Spokane Tribe Economic Project, is a proposed mixed-used, multiphase development on 145 acres of land along U.S. 2, on the western edge of Airway Heights. In addition to the casino, the project eventually is expected to include a hotel, a spa, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, retail space, and a tribal cultural center, in addition to other features. The tribe, which first proposed developing STEP in 2006, estimates that total development cost of all phases of the project will be $400 million and that it could create up to 5,100 jobs eventually.
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart says, “I think this region is more than big enough to support two world-class casinos. This makes Spokane and Airway Heights even more of a destination place.”
Following Inslee’s announcement, however, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners released a statement saying it’s “deeply disappointed” by the decision and disputed the governor’s claim that the casino won’t affect nearby Fairchild Air Force Base.
Commissioner Al French says, “The decision jeopardizes all of our efforts to protect the base. I wish the governor would have worked as hard to protect Fairchild as the county has.”
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE