In a public response to a $21 million lawsuit filed by a Florida-based gaming development firm, the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians issued a statement claiming that the firm was already compensated for services rendered in connection with its Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. The tribe, however, did not provide a dollar amount.
The complaint, filed on March 16 against the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians and the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority by Osceola Blackwood Ivory Gaming Group in a California district court alleges breach of contract, negligence, fraud, and state Business and Professions Code violations. The response stated in part, “OBIG was a vendor of the casino, but they were well compensated for their services,” the statement read. “Their lawsuit makes it clear that now OBIG wants more money than it was owed and paid; but we are a tribal government, not an ATM.”
The Chukchansi statement continued, “This lawsuit is just another one in a series of unfounded and baseless demands made by OBIG and others to attempt to extort money from our tribe. We will fight it through the courts and we will win.”
The lawsuit stems from efforts by the tribe to reopen its Coarsegold casino in 2015 after it was shut down in October 2014 by the state and the federal government after a gaming office raid during a dispute between tribal factions. The suit alleges that in the summer of 2015, tribal officials approved an agreement to pay the Florida-based group 30 percent of net revenues for a period of seven years, which is reportedly allowed under the rules of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).
The lawsuit claims that a proposed management agreement was never submitted for review and approval by the NIGC, and as a result, the firm was deprived of an estimated $21 million it stood to pocket from the deal based on incoming revenues. Osceola reportedly worked 13 months with the understanding that the agreement would be submitted to the gaming commission by the tribe after the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino opened on Dec. 31, 2015. The gaming group reportedly worked for Chukchansi until Aug. 10 of last year.
The tribe spent the better part of 2015 trying to get the casino reopened and recoup some of the millions of dollars lost during the time the venue was closed. Osceola and the tribe reached an agreement in the summer of that year; however, an election later in the year reportedly changed the political ideology of the tribal council.