In central California, the North Fork Rancheria Of Mono Indians could soon begin construction of a new casino in Madera County after having the latest edition of its gaming compact approved by the federal Department Of The Interior.
According to a report from The Fresno Bee newspaper, the federally-recognized North Fork Rancheria Of Mono Indians wants to partner with operator Station Casinos to build a casino offering 2,000 slots and 40 gaming tables just north of the city of Madera. The 305-acre facility is to additionally feature a hotel and be similar to the Chukchansi Gold Resort And Casino, which is located some 36 miles away near the town of Coarsegold.
The newspaper reported that the Friday decision could also see the new casino, which is expected to create 750 temporary construction jobs alongside full-time employment for up to 1,500 people, permitted to offer as many as 2,500 slots following its first two years’ of operation.
“We’re very excited and pleased and proud of the perseverance and dedication it took to achieve this milestone,” said Maryann McGovran, Chairwoman for the North Fork Rancheria Mono Indians Tribal Government. “We were pushing for it but we had no inkling that we would have it today.”
The proposed casino is still subject to several pending federal lawsuits filed by opponents including the Picayune Rancheria Of Chukchansi Indians, which owns and operates the Chukchansi Gold Resort And Casino. The most significant of these was lodged in late-2012 and questions the federal government’s previous land-into-trust decision for the new facility.
However, McGovran declared that the tribe had “fulfilled the letter and spirit of the law” and stated that the new casino will bring in estimated revenues of around $54 million a year. The Fresno Bee reported that other estimates have put annual revenues as high as $200 million while proponent Tom Wheeler, Supervisor for Madera County, proclaimed that he is not concerned about the pending lawsuits.
“We haven’t lost one of those lawsuits yet,” said Wheeler. “The Department Of The Interior making this decision, I think, will really sway the judges. It’s just a stalling tactic. [The new casino] is such a big deal to the county. It’s not just the money they will donate to the county for fire service, the sheriff, roads and social services; there are the jobs and they are higher-paid jobs.”
California Governor Jerry Brown approved a compact with the North Fork Rancheria Of Mono Indians in 2012 that included revenue sharing agreements with other non-gaming tribes and the Picayune Rancheria Of Chukchansi Indians. But, voters in the western state rejected this deal two years later by voting down Proposition 48, which was a referendum backed by the Table Mountain Rancheria, which operates the Table Mountain Casino in neighboring Fresno County, and the Picayune Rancheria Of Chukchansi Indians as well as the pair’s financial backers.
In November 2015, a federal judge ordered that the matter sent to a mediator, who selected the tribe’s proposed compact over the governor’s three months later. Brown consequently failed to ratify the mediator-supported agreement, which does not include payments to other tribes, meaning that final approval was left to the Department Of The Interior.