The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians announced last week its council has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jerry Brown in an effort to prevent the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians from building a resort and casino north of Madera.
In the suit, Chukchansi’s tribal council challenges the validity of Brown’s 2012 decision to place a 305-acre site near Avenue 17 and Highway 99 into federal trust for the North Fork tribe.
It claims Brown’s decision, concurrent with former U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was dependent on following certain concerns including the casino’s impacts to the Picayune tribe, which haven’t been properly addressed.
“Our Tribal Council is willing to stand up and defend tribes like ours who have followed the rules,” Chukchansi chairwoman Claudia Gonzales said, “and to tell the Governor and other politicians to listen to the overwhelming voice of Californians and stop the North Fork plan once and for all.”
In 2014, 61% of Californians voted through Proposition 48 to reject the North Fork tribe’s compact, which critics called an example of “off-reservation gaming” that violated state law.
The proposed casino is about 40 miles from the North Fork Rancheria. The tribe has claimed for years it lacked sizable property for a resort on their tribal land, and the 305-acre site has ties to tribal history.
Since that rejection by voters, Gonzales said the public’s position on the resort was clear.
“Unfortunately, the North Fork tribe and their out-of-state investors and special interests have made it clear they intend to ignore California’s voters and decades of compacts,” Gonzales said. “We are standing on the side of California’s voters and their decisions. We are pursuing all of our options - legal and legislative - to make sure that this new North Fork Casino plan does not go forward.”
The Fresno Bee reported in 2014 Chukchansi, through New York-based financial backer Brigade Financial, contributed more than $3.7 million on ads to reject the North Fork casino, including at least $525,000 from its economic development authority.
Table Mountain Rancheria in Friant, which also has a casino, added at least $11 million, while supporters of the North Fork compact reportedly raised less than $450,000 in total.
The North Fork tribe partners with Station Casinos, a gaming company based in Las Vegas.
A clash between rival factions that led to the closure of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in October 2014 may have added to voter rejection of a new gaming house. Chukchansi Gold was reopened Dec. 31 last year, with the return of its many restaurants, spa, and hotel rooms.
A year after Proposition 48, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii ordered Brown to return to negotiations with the tribe on the compact as part of federal law since the proposition lacked binding power on the issue.
The North Fork Rancheria awaits a potential new tribal compact which, if approved in the next few months, would give the go-ahead to build its resort and casino, both similarly sized to Chukchansi Gold.
Maryann McGovran, chair of the North Fork Rancheria tribal council, said there were many positive impacts from “tribal-government gaming,” including improved lives for its citizens and good will with the community.
“It’s disappointing that the Picayune Rancheria continues to waste its tribal citizens’ money attempting to delay our project and thereby denying these benefits to Madera County,” McGovran said. “Nobody benefits - especially not the local workers, customers, and economy - when casino money is spent on lawsuits and negative political ads targeting honest, fair competition.”