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Originally published Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:26 PM

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Snoqualmie tribe gives casino plan another look

The Snoqualmie Tribal Council is taking a fresh look at the tribe’s possible casino-expansion plan that has been controversial in the town of Snoqualmie.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Snoqualmie Tribal Council is taking a fresh look at the tribe’s possible casino expansion, including the idea of a 20-story hotel next to its casino.

The tribe canceled a meeting of its general membership in February to discuss refinancing its debt for the project, while the council takes a second look at the plan.

The project has been controversial in the town of Snoqualmie, where the hotel would be the tallest building for miles. An original proposal called for a 340-room hotel, conference center, larger casino and theater, and two new parking structures.

One estimate indicates that could pump up total revenue for the tribe’s casino property to nearly $300 million a year, including $230 million in gambling revenue. That would be a big jump from 2012, with $189 million in gambling revenue and $40 million from the casino’s restaurants and other facilities.

The city of Snoqualmie provides sewer, emergency and fire services to the tribe’s casino property, and is in negotiations about what size expansion of the Snoqualmies’ development it would or could service. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe beat out the Snoqualmies in 2007 to purchase the nearby Salish Lodge.

Consideration of the development comes at a time when the tribe is struggling with other issues.

The tribe’s longtime administrator, Matt Mattson, is on paid administrative leave during separate investigations by the tribal council and tribal gambling commission.

Robert Roy Smith, attorney for the Snoqualmie Tribe, said he could not discuss the details of the investigations.

Tribal members also met last week to try to resolve a long-running enrollment dispute but did not have a quorum to take action.

At issue is the base roll of tribal members. “The base roll is just a mess,” said Milo Gabel, a tribal member who turned out for the meeting at the Preston Community Center on March 10.

Members at the meeting signed a statement declaring they are true Snoqualmies, entitled to vote or hold office, because they are at least one-eighth Snoqualmie in their blood line, as the tribe’s constitution requires.

They also agreed to accept an enrollment audit done last year, so far ignored by the tribal council, and to submit it for final review.

“We have to start somewhere. This is a starting point for our tribe,” said elder Arlene Ventura, of Renton, one of 38 tribal members of all ages who gathered at the community center. They needed 40 members to take official action.

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com

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