California Voters To Decide On Tribe’s Controversial Casino Plans

In November, California voters will have their say in a referendum which could allow a Native American tribe to open a casino many miles away from its reservation. The plans have drawn fire from opposition groups who say that the tribe is simply looking for a more populated area where it can draw in more business.

The North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians has already taken the majority of steps necessary to open a casino with up to 2,000 slot machines on a 305 acre plot along a major highway. All that’s left is for California voters to have their say on Proposition 48, which would allow the tribe to join the Golden State gambling market, albeit in an area far away from its current lands.

We’re getting back to the historical land that served as a reservation for our tribe in the 1850s,” said a spokesman for the group. Tribal officials boast that their proposed casino would create some 4,500 jobs and bring many millions of dollars to the community.

Tribe against tribe

Not surprisingly, tribes who run casinos located near to the new location are strongly opposed to the North Fork’s plan. Table Mountain Rancheria, which runs a casino 25 miles from the proposed site, recently donated an additional $5.4 million to a campaign opposing Proposition 48. In total, the group has invested more than $8 million in the fight to block the move.

“This move by North Fork, if it goes forward, will incentivize tribes in rural areas to move to more lucrative locations,” said Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand up for California!. The tribe, however, says that gambling is prohibited on its existing land and that it has gone through a lengthy and legitimate process in order to open up shop on the new plot.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes are only allowed to build casinos on reservation land which existed before October 17, 1988. Yet exceptions can be made by the Sec. of Interior if it’s decided that an off reservation casino is in the best interest of the tribe and the surrounding community.

That exception was granted, with the secretary stating that the tribe had a historical connection to the land and strong support from the community. He also remarked that the North Fork’s proposed plan would prevent them from building a casino in a county deemed environmentally sensitive.