Idaho Native Tribes Clash Over $311 Million Casino Project


Deep within the sprawling landscapes of southern Idaho, nestled not too far from the lapping edges of the Nevada border, a heated contention is rippling the calm. The crux? A 311-million-dollar casino and, at its heart, two native tribes bound by the tendrils of ancestral lineage.

On one side are the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, commonly known as Sho-Ban, fixating their gaze towards the city of Mountain Home, a quaint charm seated about 45 minutes southeast of Boise. Their eyes are alight with solid plans: a state-of-the-art casino, the blueprint of which was laid out when they acquired land for the venture in the yesteryear of 2020. Since then, the tribe has been knocking on the proud doors of the federal government, waiting for their land to be taken into trust—a federal requirement for tribal gaming.

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However, resounding in the echoing valleys of southern Idaho is the potent opposition voiced by the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, or Sho-Pai. Time-stamped last May, a letter arrived at the desks of US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little. Penned in clear strokes was a demand: halt the Sho-Ban’s application.

At the heart of this escalating dispute is the singular leyline of economic survival—the establishment of only one casino. In this case, the Sho-Pai, who’ve been yearning for a regional casino since the 90s, believes it’s their turn to press their chips on the casino’s green felt. Reigning as the only federally recognized tribe in Idaho untouched by casino glamour, they’ve set their sights on Mountain Home—a territory closely linked to their forefathers.

Adding layers to the contention, Sho-Pai chairman Brian Mason draws into focus his tribe’s geographical proximity to the city, purporting it to be a better suitor for the casino. A point of contention is that while the Sho-Pai lack any casino, the Sho-Ban’s portfolio already boasts three.

Yet, the road leading to a solution is meandering and intricate. Both tribes share a deep-rooted historical claim over the land, both descendants of the Northern Paiute people and comrades during the Bannock War against the US government in 1878.

Mason asserts that although his tribe supports the economic development endeavors of their sister Tribes, the fourth casino proposal by the Sho-Ban, despite its potential success, stretches in a direction too far from their comfort zone.

Meanwhile, ripples of the conflict have spread far and wide, causing a private development company to retract its investment in a joint project proposed by the Sho-Pai. A crushing blow, considering that around 60% of the reservation’s population is struggling with unemployment. The casino was seen as a ray of hope, a new dawn towards economic prosperity.

On the flip side of the coin, a muted silence resonates from the Sho-Ban. The tribe declined to comment on the situation when approached, leaving the dimensions of this emerging conflict to speculation and time. As the sun sets over the mountains of southern Idaho, the future of this casino—and the tribes yearning for its prosperous glow—hangs in the balance.