The California Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, who have been trying to open a casino on “off-reservation” land for years.
The ruling ends nearly a decade of legal challenges that followed the initial 2003 agreement between the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and Station Casinos, a subsidiary of Red Rock Resorts.
Opponents of the plan to use 305 acres of federally-owned land filed a lawsuit in 2012, claiming then Gov. Jerry Brown needed legislative authority to ok the project.
This week’s California Supreme Court ruling, which was more than three years in the making, determined Brown was within his powers to approve the two-site casino proposal. It’s unclear how this news affects a planned site for Yuba County.
Better Late Than Never
Nearly 20 years later, Red Rock Resorts and the North Fork Rancheria tribe now have the go-ahead to build and operate a 200-room hotel and casino in Central California.
The Madera-area (just outside of Fresno) Station Casinos will feature 2,000 slot machines and 40 table games.
The new development will solve the long-standing issue with building on the 61 acres the tribe resides on, which it has deemed too small and too remote to operate a successful casino.
“We are thrilled that the (Supreme) Court has finally decided this case in our favor,” said North Fork Rancheria Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink said in a statement.
“Our tribal citizens and local community have been denied the advantages of tribal gaming – billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs – for far too long.”
The long wait was because the land the North Fork Rancheria tribe and Station Casinos planned to use was placed in a trust in 2004, a year after the sides agreed to a deal.
Gov. Brown greenlit the use of the land in 2012, but multiple organizations opposed it. After two appeals courts returned two different decisions, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Auburn Indian Community vs. Newsom in 2017.
“This ruling has been a long time coming for the tribe and we are thrilled to be able to move forward with them on this very attractive project,” Red Rock Resorts Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Finch said.
A Boost For A Struggling Economy
California, the world’s fifth largest economy, has been battered by the coronavirus.
The unemployment rate was 13.3 percent in July, which is actually an improvement from the previous months (14.9 percent in June and 15.5 percent in May).
What’s more, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently patched a $54 billion deficit by raising taxes on businesses and delaying payments to public schools.
Needless to say, the news of this project moving forward is a breath of fresh air for California residents as they try to recover from the economic devastation of COVID-19.
Aside from the hundreds of jobs it will create, the deal with Station Casinos will reportedly bring Madera County nearly $5 million per year to put toward roads, schools and public services.
California Dreamin’ (Of Sports Betting)
Station Casinos will eventually be one of several entities vying for a piece of the California sports betting market. It’s an enormous market – the biggest in the U.S by far.
“The numbers that we’re seeing, what we’ve heard anecdotally from the off-shore [gambling] operators … it’s going to be huge,” Brian Musburger, founder and chairman of the sports betting information outlet Vegas Stats and Information (VSIN) told the LA Times in July.
The issue is it’s unlikely to be legalized in California until at least at least 2022.
Yet for the North Fork Rancheria tribe, which waited nearly 20 years to realize its goal of opening a casino, the payoff will likely make the wait more than worthwhile.