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Mountain Home, Idaho Casino Proposal Causes Rift Between Kindred Tribes

A squabble has erupted between two ancestrally linked tribes over who gets to build a casino in southern Idaho, close to the Nevada border, The Idaho Statesmen reports.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes (Sho-Ban) want to build a $311 million casino in the city of Mountain Home, about 45 minutes southeast of Boise. In 2020, they purchased land nearby for the project, which they have applied to the federal government to take into trust, a prerequisite for tribal gaming.

But last month, the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation (Sho-Pai) wrote to US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little, asking them to refuse the application.

The Sho-Pai are the only federally recognized tribe in Idaho without a casino and have been looking to build one in Mountain Home since the 1990s. And because the market will only support one casino in the area, something’s got to give.

In his letter to Haaland and Little, dated May 15, Sho-Pai chairman Brian Mason noted that Mountain Home was “squarely situated within the ancestral territory of the Sho-Pai People” and that the city “is the best local neighbor of the Sho-Pai People,” emphasizing that the Duck Valley reservation is geographically much closer to the city than the Sho-Ban reservation.

He also noted that while his tribe has no casinos, the Sho-Ban already has three.

The problem is that the Sho-Ban also have ancestral ties to the land because they share the same ancestors, the Northern Paiute people. The two tribes were brothers-in-arms during the Bannock War of 1878 against the US government.

“While we generally support our sister Tribes’ efforts to create new economic development opportunities that will help improve their peoples’ lives, the Sho-Ban Tribes’ proposal for a fourth tribal casino, in Sho-Pai ancestral territory, is a bridge too far,” Mason wrote.

In 2020, the Sho-Pai sent out a request for proposal to other tribal operators to explore working on a joint project, Mason told the Statesman. The Sho-Ban responded, proposing a joint venture in which the smaller tribe would hold just a 10% interest. The Sho-Pai rejected the offer.

The Sho-Pai then partnered with a private development company, but the firm pulled its investment when the Sho-Ban project began to take shape.

Mason said the tribe needs a casino for economic development at a time when around 60% of people on the reservation are unemployed.

The Sho-Ban declined to comment on the situation when approached by the Statesman.

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