Despite having its updated gambling compact approved by Democratic governor Jerry Brown late last month, the Buena Vista Rancheria Of Me-Wuk Indians still faces a fight to open a casino in Amador County.
According to a report from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch newspaper, the small California tribe has waged a decade-plus legal battle against local officials for the right to construct the new casino on 67.5 acres of land about five miles south of the town of Ione.
Federally recognized since 1985, the Buena Vista Rancheria Of Me-Wuk Indians signed an agreement with Amador County in 2008 after over two years of negotiations that would have seen it pay an $18 million lump sum as well as $8 million a year to offset the impacts of any new development including the costs of law enforcement. But, authorities in the central Californian county later refused to honor this deal, which would have restricted the new casino to 950 slots, even after an independent arbitrator upheld the terms of the proposed arrangement.
This case went all the way to the US District Court For The District Of Columbia where mid-March saw federal judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein rule against the rural county’s assertion that the proposed site for the casino was not a legal reservation for a gambling development.
However, Amador County, which is home to around 38,000 residents and the 1,700-slot Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, is not done with officials revealing that they are waiting on the outcome of an appeal.
“We still have pending litigation in the form of an appeal and that litigation will continue,” Chuck Iley, Administrative Officer for Amador County, told the Amador Ledger-Dispatch. “The modified compacts do not change that.”
The compact signed by 78-year-old Brown in June would allow the Buena Vista Rancheria Of Me-Wuk Indians to operate a casino with up to 2,000 slots although it would be required to negotiate a separate agreement with Amador County for the additional 1,050 machines.
“From the County’s perspective, the amended compact does not affect the litigation,” Gregory Gillot, a lawyer working for Amador County, told the newspaper. “[The] Buena Vista [Rancheria Of Me-Wuk Indians] has had a compact with the state for many years now. This amended compact merely updates the previous compact. Even under the amended compact, they will still only be able to game on land that is, in fact, eligible for Class III gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which is the basis of our ongoing action against the federal government.”