Governor Jerry Brown has signed a tribal state gaming agreement. It allows the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to build a massive casino and hotel off Avenue 17 and Highway 99 in Madera County.
Controversy has caused this project to be in the works for nearly a decade. Opponents say this approval sets a bad precedent for all tribes to relocate off a major freeway. However, the Mono Indians say it's not that simple. They had to meet some difficult criteria, which is why they are just the second tribe in the state to gain this right.
“We're very happy. It's been a long, long road and a lot of work and we know there's a lot more work coming with this, but we're very happy,” said Elaine Bethel Fink, Tribal Chairwoman of the North Fork Rancheria.
The state of the art hotel and casino would sit on 305 acres. It would feature as many as 2,000 slot machines.
The more money the casino wins, the better it is for the state because it would receive millions in tax revenue.
Building it would require thousands of construction workers. Day to day operations would boost the economy as well.
“We're looking at 1,500 to 1,700 well paying jobs with full benefits,” said Fink.
The Chukchansi Indians have argued that the North Fork tribe does not have a significant historical connection to this land and should not be allowed to build on it.
Disappointed Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis wrote, "The tribe will be exploring its litigation options regarding this project."
Madera City Councilman, Robert Poythress, has also been a strong opponent.
“It’s not so much against the casino, it's against problem gambling,” said Robert Poythress of the Madera City Council.
Poythress is now somewhat relieved because he and the Mono Indians have agreed to develop a program to prevent folks from digging themselves into financial holes.
“We've had a good working relationship and I’m looking forward to working with them as this casino project moves along,” said Poythress.
California lawmakers still need to approve this compact. If they do, the tribe says it will likely be at least five years before the casino opens.