Written by The Business Journal Staff
The lawsuit challenges Brown’s agreement with the federal Department of Interior to place 305 acres off of Highway 99 into trust for the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians.
Brown’s concurrence led to the North Fork Compact, which paved the way for the North Fork tribe and partner Station Casinos to build a gaming center with 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games and a hotel.
Brown signed the compact in 2012, and it was ratified by the Legislature in 2013. But in 2014, 60 percent of voters approved Proposition 48, which rejected the compact.
North Fork officials maintained that Prop 48 was only a setback, and have continued to negotiate with federal, state and local authorities to revive the plan, which the Chukchansi Rancheria — operator of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino — have opposed from the start.
The dispute brought to the forefront accusations of “reservation shopping,” as the site north of Madera is about 36 miles from North Fork’s existing rancheria.
“The new North Fork scheme not only ignores the will of California’s voters, it would undo decades of tribal gaming regulations and open the floodgates for off-reservation casinos to go up in any land in the state,” Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians Tribal Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales said in a statement. “Our Tribal Council is willing to stand up and defend Tribes like ours who have followed the rules and to tell the Governor and other politicians to listen to the overwhelming voice of Californians and stop the North Fork plan once and for all.”
In addition to the lawsuit — filed in Madera County Superior Court March 18 — Chukchansi has also paid for print advertising and radio airtime in major California markets alerting the public about renewed efforts to form a new compact.
It doesn’t look like the Brown administration has reentered negotiations with North Fork willingly. In fact, a federal judge in Fresno ordered the state back to the bargaining table with the tribe in November 2015 as part of a lawsuit North Fork filed against the state.