A federal judge ruled this week that the Legislature acted in bad faith in its failure to approve a gaming compact with the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians. In December 2015, the federal government, along with attorneys for the tribe, requested the attempts of the Colusa Casino to overturn a decision allowing the tribe to open a casino in Yuba County, California, be rejected.
The state and the tribe were ordered by U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley to “conclude” a compact within 60 days. Failure to do so could eventually lead to the secretary of the Interior imposing rules for Class III gaming at the Yuba County casino. Judge Nunley wrote that the state, “has not met its burden of showing it has negotiated in good faith in order to conclude a compact,” according to the Appeal Democrat.
Citing the unwillingness of the Legislature to approve a compact for a Class III gaming resort last year, the tribe cancelled its original plan and on June 15, 2015 the tribe announced new plans for a downsized Class II casino in Yuba County along Forty Mile Road. A state gaming compact and local agreement are not necessary for Class II gaming. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) Class II gaming includes bingo and games associated with it, such as pull-tabs, and non–banking card games like poker. The more lucrative Class III license includes everything else from horse racing to banking-card games like baccarat and blackjack, roulette, craps and slot machines.
The 23-page opinion by Judge Nunley was delivered in a 2014 suit filed by the tribe against the state after the legislature failed to act on a Class III compact signed in 2012 by Governor Jerry Brown. The judge wrote that, “The Legislature’s nearly two years of inactivity regarding the compact until it expired, and no activity since then, constitute evidence (the state) has not responded in good faith to requests to negotiate.” The judge wrote that the lack of activity constitutes a “bad faith negotiation.”
Nunley noted that relevant to whether the state had negotiated in good faith was any information offered from a working group referenced in a 2013 correspondence from Sen. Kevin de Leòn to Brown regarding concerns over nonreservation lands. No such information was offered, which led Nunley to believe the Legislature wasn’t interested in taking any action on such compacts.
Nunley gave the tribe and the state 60 days to finalize a compact. If at that time a compact has not been concluded, under the IGRA, a mediator would be appointed by Nunley to select from the compacts proposed by the state and the tribe. After which time the state has an additional 60 days to consent to the chosen compact. If the state fails to act, the rules for Class III gaming would be imposed by the secretary of the Interior.
In Judge Nunley’s opinion he wrote that the state was first approached by the tribe about a gaming compact in June 2000, just after Proposition 1A, which allowed Class III gaming on reservation land, was approved by voters. That request by the tribe was renewed in 2004, but the state declined to begin negotiations. The judge wrote that tribal officials “continued to meet to discuss a proposed gaming facility with the legislative staff of Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger and, beginning in 2011, a senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown.”