Officials in Kern County, California, are continuing to discuss plans that could see the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe build a new $29 million casino at a site near the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
The tribe, which has its reservation 130 miles away in Death Valley National Park, intends to submit a land-into-trust application with the Bureau Of Indian Affairs as part of the process but wants the city of Ridgecrest to first approve a municipal services agreement.
According to a report from The Ridgecrest Daily Independent newspaper, George Gholson, Chairman for the Federally-recognized Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, stated that the proposed casino would be a “family-run business” and is intended as a way to help ensure a better future for the group’s younger generations.
“We want to learn a business, we want to understand a business,” said Gholson. “We want our next generations to not live on welfare, to not be “you owe me” people. We want them to stand up, we want them to be educated, we want them to be heard, we want them to be seen. We don’t want to hide any longer. I am not a gambler myself, I’m not a drinker. I really, really look at this as a future for my people.”
Gholson revealed that the projected casino would house 349 slots alongside six table games, a pair of restaurants and an entertainments lounge and could create up to 180 jobs.
However, the proposal has drawn criticism from many locals who believe that the area does not need a casino. Some question why the tribe wants to cite its new venture a five-hour drive away from its ancestral homeland while additionally questioning the involvement of casino developer Nigel White.
“We want to be part of society [and] we want to be productive,” said Gholson. “We’ve got money to operate but other than that we are broke. A casino is a mechanism that allows us to fund education, fund medical, fund housing. We have people right now who don’t have running water, they don’t have electricity, elders in their 70s. Can you imagine having to go out to the outhouse at 70-plus-years-old because you have the flu?”
Gholson declared that White, who the tribe revealed it has known since 2007, would be helping it to secure funding along with an operator for the new casino while he countered location objections by pronouncing that his group had “strong ties” to the area as it had been part of the tribe’s aboriginal territory.
But, even if the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe receives the support of Kern County officials, it would still be required to follow the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act before any casino was approved. This is a process that could take several years as it requires the approval of the Bureau Of Indian Affairs and the state governor.