Senate approves casino compact

The California State Senate passed AB 277 – the North Fork Rancheria State-Tribal Gaming Compact today, the last major hurdle leading to the construction of the tribe’s $350 million casino on Highway 99 near Madera.

The vote of the Senate was 22 yes, 11 nos with six members not voting. The compact, which spells out details of revenue sharing from the casino, was approved by the State Assembly on May 2. The legislation also advances a compact between California and the Wiyot Tribe. In March, the Wiyot Tribe surrendered the right to build on its environmentally sensitive land in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds from the North Fork tribe’s gambling profits.

The US Interior Department, Bureau of Indian Affairs, must certify that the compact follows all federal rules that have to do with tribal gaming. That approval is expected within the next 60 days.

Gary Gilbert, former member of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, was the lead negotiator on behalf of the county when the tribe and county agreed to the Memorandum of Understanding, and has continually supported the efforts of the tribe’s efforts to bring the project to tuition.

“This has been a long process, nearly 10 years, and throughout the process, the tribe has always been very transparent and respectful,” Gilbert said. “This partnership between the tribe and the county will provide a huge economic boost to the Madera county, especially in job creation,” Gilbert said. “Many services will be improved including a new fire station, more firefighters, support for education and non-profit organizations to name a few.

Gilbert said the agreement between the tribe and the county provides $250,000 a year for 20 years to be used for economic development to benefit North Fork.

The following prepared statement was released by Elaine Bethel-Fink, tribal chairperson.

“We are very pleased that the California State Legislature, after examining our tribe’s history and our project’s merits, voted to ratify Governor Brown’s visionary Tribal-State Gaming Compact with our tribe. This action caps over a decade of rigorous, cooperative, and transparent work on many levels of government.

The North Fork compact delivers many benefits for Native Americans and the State of California continued Bethel-Fink.

“The compact puts our tribe on a solid path toward self-reliance and provides unprecedented funding for poorer non-gaming and small casino tribes across the state. The compact provides a much needed economic boost for one of the poorest regions of the state and nation by generating thousands of good paying jobs and pumping nearly a $100 million dollars per year into the local economy.”

Bethel said the compact protects ecologically sensitive areas near the Sierra National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and Humboldt National Seashore.

The compact ensures that funds from the project will go to local infrastructure, public safety, schools, parks, housing, economic development, job training, charities, and other essential services and programs,” Bethel-Fink said.

“The compact acknowledges the enormous local support behind this project — from local jurisdictions, labor, business groups, civic groups, and individual citizens ... without whose support this would not have been possible,” Bethel-Fink concluded.