On Friday a federal judge ordered the State of California to return to the bargaining table with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians after he found that Governor Jerry Brown had not acted in good faith with the tribe as required by law. He gave the parties 60 days to conclude a compact or he will appoint a mediator.

In March the tribe sued the state, finally seeing a favorable decision last week.

Compact negotiations had already concluded and the state signed a gambling compact for the tribe’s Class III casino (Las Vegas style games) that was ratified by the Legislature. However voters state-wide  rejected the agreement at the polls last year in Proposition 48. The tribe sought to re-negotiate but the governor said in a letter to the tribe in January that efforts to come to an agreement  “would be futile.”

In their complaint the tribe  argued that, “By refusing to honor the existing compact and refusing to negotiate to enter into a new tribal-state gaming compact, the state has breached its obligation (to negotiate in good faith).”

In his 23 page ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii wrote, “The state does not now contend that any of the (Department of the Interior) secretary’s determinations were incorrect, nor does it articulate a basis for its refusal to negotiate regarding the Madera parcel.”

The tribe has worked for over a decade to get their 305 acre plot near Madera into federal trust and has worked with local, state, and federal governments to bring their casino plan to reality.
There were two other related cases before federal courts. Stand Up For California and the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians both sued the federal government over the compact  and land into trust application approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Those two cases were consolidated in a Washington D.C. federal court and the compact provided compensation to the Chukchansi for potential revenue losses. The Chukchansi casino has been closed for over a year.
Table Mountain Casino and other interests are also still opposed to the tribe’s efforts to compete. Table Mountain was reportedly the largest financial backer of the state-wide  ballot measure that painted the casino as “off-reservation gambling” and mistakenly claimed the Mono Indians had no connection to the land. Opponents of the ballot measure contended that the tribe historically migrated between the land in the valley and their current home in the mountains near Yosemite.
According to current plans the Madera casino would be built by Friedmutter Group Architecture & Design Studios and offer about the same number of games as the Chukchansi Gold Casino in Coursegold – 2,000 slot machines, 40 tables games, and a bingo hall – the location would be north of Avenue 17 and Highway 99.

 

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