The Tule River Indian Tribe has a new Class III compact with the State of California as Assembly Bill 394 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017.
The bill, which was authored by Assemblyman Devon Mathis and co-authored by Senator Andy Vidak, ratifies a tribal-state gaming compact allowing the Tule River Indian Tribe to continue to operate the Eagle Mountain Casino uninterrupted at its current on-reservation location in Tulare County for an additional 20 years.
The tribe has operated the Eagle Mountain Casino on its 55,356-acre Tule River Reservation, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, for more than two decades. The previous tribal-state gaming compact was set to expire in 2020.
Tule River Tribal Council Chairman Neil Peyron, said, “This bill is critically important to the Tule River Tribe, as it allows the Eagle Mountain Casino to operate for an additional two decades,” according to The Porterville Recorder. Chairman Peyron especially thanked Senator Vidak and Assemblyman Mathis for their help with the compact legislation.
Early last month, Gov. Brown and the Tule River Tribe were able to reach an agreement on the gaming compact. However, approval by both the lower and upper houses of the state legislature was still needed in order for the newly signed compact to be ratified. During the final week of the legislative session, AB 394 passed both the Senate and the Assembly unanimously, voting 40-0 and 77-0 respectively. The compact will now move on to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) where it will be reviewed and potentially approved.
Tribal Chairman Peyron said, “The Tule River Tribe believes that the revised compact will be a great benefit to the Tribe, its members, the City of Porterville and the County of Tulare,” according to The Porterville Recorder.
In addition to ensuring that local governments receive a fair share of resources, the new compact reportedly includes language that summons a return to the negotiating table should the tribe’s pursuit of an off-reservation casino be successful.
The Tule River Tribe wants to relocate the Eagle Mountain Casino to a more profitable site in California and is pursuing the move under Section 20(b)(1)(A) of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the two-part determination exception. The tribe will need approval from both the state and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The new compact does not apply beyond the existing casino.
While the tribe’s efforts to relocate the casino to tribal-owned land some 21 miles away near the Porterville Municipal Airport continues to move forward, if the Department of the Interior approves the move, the governor will need to sign off on it as well.
If approved, the tribe would reportedly build a new casino with a 250-room hotel and a 20,000 square-foot convention center.