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Saturday, March 4, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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As Snoqualmie Tribe celebrate casino approval, neighbors voice worries

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Snoqualmie Tribe members gathered near their headquarters in Carnation on Friday to celebrate a long-awaited victory — getting the nod this week from federal officials to move forward with plans to build a casino off Interstate 90 near North Bend.

Meanwhile, residents in the neighborhood adjacent to the site voiced disappointment.

"This is going to change the whole flavor of Snoqualmie," said Betty McJunkin, who has lived on Southeast 92nd Street for nearly 20 years.

Construction is expected to start on Casino Snoqualmie in June and finish by fall 2007. The $90 million, 150,000-square-foot gaming center will include high-end restaurants, a cigar bar and areas for live entertainment. The casino — which will be open 24 hours a day three times a week, and 20 hours a day four times a week — will feature 10 to 15 poker tables, 675 slot machines and games such as roulette, craps, blackjack and baccarat.

In February 2001, tribal officials submitted an application to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to build a casino on a 56-acre parcel off Southeast North Bend Way. The land was granted federal reservation status Thursday. The designation means the parcel falls under tribal authority and paves the way for Snoqualmie to enter the multibillion-dollar gaming industry.

"This is just the beginning," said Ray Mullen, tribal council member. "The work really starts now."

The tribe is working with developer Jerry Moyes, owner of the Arizona-based companies MGU and MGU Development.

Moyes, who also owns the National Hockey League Phoenix Coyotes, has invested nearly $10 million in the project, which includes the $4 million land purchase, $2 million for sewer lines and $3 million for the casino's conceptual designs, said Matt Mattson, tribal administrator.

Snoqualmie will be the first casino venture for MGU, Mattson said. Under the agreement, the tribe will get 70 percent of net revenue and MGU 30 percent, he said.

The tribe felt the "most comfortable" with MGU, because the company was receptive to running the casino as a joint effort, he added.

"[The tribe] will make decisions," he said. "We're very much a part of this process." Other companies that approached the tribe about building a casino seemed to rely on a formula without seeking input from the tribe, he said.

Tribal members spoke with excitement Friday about their future and reflected on the significance of the project. More than 800 jobs are expected to be created by the casino, and first dibs will go to the Snoqualmie Tribe, said Michael Barozzi, the casino's general manager.

"The people are going to prosper," said Maryanne Hinzman, vice chairwoman of the tribe.

"The tribe now has a place on the map," said Nathan Barker, sub-chief. "We now have a place to call our own."

Neighbors say they will have to learn to live with a bustling casino next door. No appeals were filed during the BIA's 30-day mandatory public-comment period, which ended Thursday. And no organized opposition emerged during the five years the project was on the table.

Some say the reason they weren't able to mobilize was because of money.

"It costs a lot to take something like that on," said Sharon Bray, who has lived on Southeast 93rd Street for 17 years. "You kind of feel like the little guy, like there was nothing we could do.

"I don't begrudge the Indians at all," she said. "And we can't do much about it now. You can't stop progress."

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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