Armed takeover shuts down casino

Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold was closed down unexpectedly Thursday night.

According to the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, tribal factions were feuding and the casino was evacuated.

Angry patrons waited out in the parking lot, upset not only over the closure but the monies they were not able to recover.

Monica Davis, the Tex McDonald faction’s vice-chairwoman, said that at approximately 7 p.m. Thursday, a group from the McDonald tribal council, with its new police chief, John Oliveira and his officers, entered the casino to locate two years of missing audits, but were unable to find these documents.

Roger Salazar, the spokesman for the casino who was hired by the Reggie Lewis faction, said that about 10-15 people in three or four cars entered the casino early Thursday evening, rounded up security staff, pointing weapons at them before heading for the gaming office, where records are kept.

The National Indian Gaming Commission’s recently threatened to close the casino because of these missing audits, given the casino a deadline of Oct. 27 to provide the information. The tribe also faces fines of up to $100,000 per day dating back to April 30. If fully assessed, those fines could reach $16 million.

By 9:30 p.m., sheriff deputies had restored order, and Sheriff John Anderson planned to act as mediator between the McDonald and Reggie Lewis/Nancy Ayala factions to sort out the situation.

No arrests have been made, and while it was reported that casino security guards were hit with stun guns, there is no immediate word on injuries.

According to Erica Stuart, spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, there is no word on when the casino or Lucky Lane, the road where the casino is situated, will reopen.