After recently announcing that it would be temporarily suspending construction of its $186 million Fire Mountain Casino, it appears as though the Enterprise Rancheria of California will be restarting its efforts to get the 140,000 square foot development opened by May next year.
The delay in construction was attributed by the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe to more than a decade of judicial scrutiny and administrative, political, and legislative interference, which resulted in challenges to securing permanent final financing. In an email to the Appeal-Democrat, Enterprise Rancheria spokesman Charles Altekruse said that a few years were tacked on to the process due to political pressure and legal challenges presented by well-funded opponents. He said, “Opponents are now gaming the system by tying up the courts with multiple lawsuits adding another two to four years — which puts us about where we are here now in 2016,” according to the news agency. However, the issuance of procedures for the tribe to conduct Class III gaming on its 40-acre trust site by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on Friday effectively removes one of those obstacles.
In a press release quoted by the news agency, Chairwoman Glenda Nelson said, “The issuance of secretarial procedures by the department is an important milestone and clears a major hurdle for the development of our Tribe’s gaming facility,” and, “The tribe is extremely excited and very appreciative to the department for fulfilling its duty to issue the procedures as required under federal law.” The issuance enables the tribe to offer Las Vegas-style gambling at the casino located in Yuba County’s sports and entertainment zone just south of Marysville. Opening a Class II gambling facility, which would restrict gaming to less lucrative games such as bingo and non-banked card games like Blackjack, had been contemplated by the tribe at one point.
It is the third time Class III gaming procedures have been issued by the BIA in California. And in all three of those instances, California lawmakers violated terms of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by failing to negotiate a compact in good faith. On August 20, 2014, the tribe filed suit in federal court alleging that the state violated terms of the IGRA. And in February this year, U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley ruled that the Legislature acted in bad faith in its failure to approve a gaming compact with the Enterprise Rancheria and ordered the state to conclude a compact within 60 days, which the state failed to do.
In spite of the development, the drama is far from over as rival tribes, the Cachil DeHe Band Of Wintun Indians of The Colusa Rancheria, operators of the Colusa Casino Resort, and the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) which owns and operates the Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California, continue their efforts to stop Fire Mountain from moving forward. The two tribes have asked Congress to pass House of Representatives Bill 5079 (pdf), the California Compact Protection Act sponsored by Congressman Doug LaMalfa, to prevent the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe from using its 40-acre plot of land for Class III games. The bill would amend the IGRA to require that “certain off-reservation gaming proposals shall be subject to full ratification and referendum process established by California State law.”
On April 8, the tribe broke ground on the casino that is situated just a half hour’s drive north of one of the state’s most successful tribal casinos, the UAIC’s 200,000-square-foot Thunder Valley Casino.