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US – Chukchansi tribe to sue over off-reservation casino

By - 28 March 2016

The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians Tribal Council has filed a lawsuit against California Governor Edmund G. Brown challenging the legality of the Governor’s concurrence in a 2012 decision by the Department of the Interior that led to the North Fork Compact.

That compact, which was eventually rejected by 61 per cent of California voters (Proposition 48 in 2014), would have allowed Las Vegas-style casino gaming at a 305 acre site nearly 50 miles away from the North Fork Reservation.

“The new North Fork scheme not only ignores the will of California’s voters, it would undo decades of tribal gaming regulations and open the floodgates for off-reservation casinos to go up in any land in the state,” Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians Tribal Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales said. “Our Tribal Council is willing to stand up and defend Tribes like ours who have followed the rules 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.”

The lawsuit (Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians v. Edmund G, Brown, Governor of California), filed in Madera County Superior Court on March 18, challenges the validity of Governor Brown’s concurrence with then Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar’s determination to allow 305 acres in Madera County to be placed into trust for the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians for casino gaming.

In his letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Governor Brown made it clear that his concurrence was only being given because the compact that he was entering into with the North Fork Band contained provisions addressing several specific concerns. Included among those concerns was the impact the North Fork casino would have on local governments and the Wiyot and Picayune Tribes. The compact that addressed those concerns was rejected by Proposition 48 in November 2014 by 61 per cent of Californians throughout the state, including the voters in Madera County.

Since that overwhelming rejection by the voters, those supporting North Fork have pursued their own legal options and continued to negotiate with Federal and State authorities to revive their defeated plan.

“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. We are standing on the side of California’s voters and their decisions,” Chairwoman Gonzales said. “We are pursuing all of our options – legal and legislative – to make sure that this new North Fork Casino plan does not go forward.”

Two weeks ago, the Tribe sponsored full-page ads in all of California’s major newspapers and a seven-day radio blitz alerting the public of the actions by some politicians to ignore the will of the voters and move forward with a compact. The lawsuit is part of the Picayune Rancheria’s second prong of the effort to stop this North Fork plan. In addition, the tribe is working with theirWashington D.C. representatives to pursue legislative remedies.

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