Casino compact in effect

State-tribe agreement may still be placed on November 2014 ballot

October 22, 2013 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs published notice in the federal register that the class III gaming compact between the State of California and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California is in effect as of Tuesday.

According to Elaine Bethel-Fink, tribal chair of the Rancheria, publication of the notice in the federal register completes the final step in the rigorous federal process that the tribe has followed since 2004. The process included an exhaustive environmental review under the National Environmental Protection Agency, affirmative decisions by the Secretary of the Interior on the tribe's land trust application, and most recently, the compact approval. The process also required Governor Brown's concurrence in the tribe's land trust application, his negotiation of the compact, and the State Legislature's ratification of the compact.

"This is an important day for North Fork, Madera County, and poorer tribes across the state who will directly benefit from the jobs, economic activity, and public funding this compact delivers," said Bethel-Fink. "Now at last we can all focus on coming together, moving forward, and clearing any remaining obstacles to delivering on the true promise of Indian gaming ... jobs, tribal self-sufficiency, and community funding."

The rancheria still faces the possibility that the proposed multi-million dollar casino on Highway 99 may appear on the November 2014 ballot — giving voters the chance to decide if they agree with the Sacramento decision makers to allow the compact and an off reservation casino.

More than 800,000 signatures were turned in Sept. 30 to county registrars across the state, well in excess of the needed signatures to place a referendum on the November 2014 ballot.

Counties are currently doing a random sample of the raw-count signatures to ensure they are valid. The random sample is 3% of the signatures submitted, or 500, whichever is greater. The sample signature counts are due to the Secretary of State by Nov. 25 — 555,236 valid signature from the random sample are necessary.

If the result of the random sample indicates that the number of valid signatures represents a projected 95% to 110% of the required number of signatures to qualify the initiative measure for the ballot, the Secretary of State will direct county election officials to verify every signature on the petition.

If the total number of valid signatures is less than 95% of the number of signatures required to qualify the initiative measure, the initiative measure will fail to qualify for the ballot. If the number of valid signatures is greater than 110% of the required number of signatures, the initiative measure is considered qualified without further verification.

Eight counties provided 471,863 uncertified signatures, more than half of the signatures that were turned in. Those counties are Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, and Ventura. About 3,800 signatures were submitted from Madera County.

Only 11 counties have submitted valid signatures totaling 3,454 as of Oct. 18.

Other California casinos, including the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold and Friant's Table Mountain Casino, along with Chukchansi investors and bond holders, contributed more than $1.6 million to finance the effort to place the issue on the ballot.

Stand Up for California, headed by Cheryl Schmit, filed the referendum July 9, seeking to reverse the Legislature's approval of the compact.

The controversial gaming compact, AB 277, signed by Governor Brown and narrowly approved by the Sacramento Legislature, would allow the North Fork Rancheria to partner with Las Vegas based Station Casino to build the proposed 50 table, 2,000-slot machine casino near Madera on a 305-acre site.

Opponents of the casino near Madera feel the compact is in direct contrast to what voters approved in 2000 with the passage of Prop 1A, which allows for Indian gaming to take place only on a tribe's originally restored Indian lands.

Proponents, including the majority of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, chamber of commerce officials and union leaders, say the development is needed for the financial vitality of Madera County and Central California. Supervisor David Rodgers, who represents the area where the casino would be built, is against the project.

— Staff report

"This is an important day for North Fork, Madera County, and poorer tribes across the state who will directly benefit from the jobs, economic activity, and public funding this compact delivers," — Elaine Bethel-Fink, tribal chair

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