The decision by the state and federal government to approve the reopening of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino in Coarsegold, California was protested by individuals gathered outside of the facility’s entrance on Wednesday.
Despite the National Indian Gaming Commission’s (NIGC) November 21 decision the same tribal infighting that derailed previous attempts to reopen the casino persist. Claiming to be the Chukchansi tribe’s original founders, a group of tribal members known as the “distributees” oppose the decision allowing the casino to reopen. The distributees, who claim there are only 46 members of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indian tribe, were joined by Tex McDonald’s former group, members of the Monica Davis faction, which claims itself as the tribal council, according to the Fresno Bee.
The group opposes the October election process that netted none of the supporters or members of the distributees a seat on the council. The group makes the claim that because those permitted to vote had been disenrolled between 2010 and 2012, the election was illegal. Tribal members from 2010 were allowed to cast ballots, a decision that was voted upon by the tribal council prior to the election. The 2010 council was named as the tribe’s leadership both in 2014 and in 2015 by the federal government. Supporters and members of the distributees’ faction served on the 2010 council.
When the casino opens this morning morning, after being closed for nearly 15 months, protesters will again gather around the corner of Lucky Lane and Highway 41, according to Luke Davis, chairman of distributees’ council.
Before the election a temporary restraining order was issued after a tribal court ruled in favor of the distributees. That decision has not been acknowledged by the federal government. Furthermore, the tribal court’s jurisdiction isn’t recognized by most members of the 2010 tribal council. Davis said the distributees wanted the election postponed until there was a resolution to the enrollment issues.
A U.S. District Court judge in Fresno rejected both groups opposition motions filed last week regarding the reopening of the casino. A new lawsuit against the federal government, or an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, contending the 2010’s council selection was illegal, is being considered by Gary Montana, lawyer for the distributees.
Customers will be able to access 22 table games and over 1,700 slot machines at the casino’s soft launch at 10 a.m. Initially, 220 hotel rooms will be open to customers, with the remaining 200 to open sometime in 2016. Before the end of January 2016 the 7 restaurants at the casino will be fully functional.