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Bill blocks Class III gaming at two specific off-reservation casinos

Filed Under: California | Compacts | Legislation
More on: 114th, auburn, california, chukchansi, enterprise, h.r.5079, house, igra, north fork, off-reservation, section 20, two-part determination

Artist's rendering of the Fire Mountain Casino. Image from Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria

The text of the H.R.5079, the California Compact Protection Act, is finally online and it reveals some extremely tailored yet twisted language aimed at preventing two tribes from engaging in Class III gaming on their trust lands.

The bill doesn't mention any tribes by name but its main provision is so specific that it can only apply to the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. At the same time, the measure protects the rights of tribes with existing casinos.

Section 3 of the measure bars the Bureau of Indian Affairs from approving or allowing Class III gaming on "any land in California" that was authorized under 25 U.S.C. 2719(b)(1)(A) and for which the state of California either failed to ratify a Class III gaming compact or rejected a Class III gaming compact at the polls.

The reference to 25 U.S.C. 2719(b)(1)(A)) is important because that's the section of the federal code that implements the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Both the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria won approval for their casinos by following that process and, so far, they are the only ones in California to have done so.

The Enterprise Rancheria of California held a sunrise groundbreaking ceremony for the $170 million Fire Mountain Casino on April 8, 2016. Photo by Yuba County / Facebook

But the Enterprise Rancheria can't offer Class III gaming because its compact was never ratified by the California Legislature. The North Fork Rancheria's compact was approved but was later rejected by voters through a referendum in 2014. That ensures Section 3 of the bill only applies to those two tribes and to no one else.

That kind of tailoring also ensures that the tribes that have been fighting the new developments won't be harmed if the bill ever becomes law. The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, an opponent of the North Fork Rancheria, won approval for its casino under a different provision of IGRA so the tribe wouldn't be affected.

The United Auburn Indian Community, an opponent of the Enterprise Rancheria, also wouldn't be harmed because its casino was not authorized under the section of IGRA that's referenced in the bill.

Neither the Chukchansis nor the Auburns have expressed interest in new casinos at this point. But they will need new Class III gaming compacts in the future and the bill ensures those efforts won't be hindered.

The North Fork Rancheria has an office in North Fork, California. Photo from Facebook

The language in H.R.5079 is reminiscent of a measure that sought to stop the Tohono O'odham Nation from engaging in gaming on its trust lands. The Keep the Promise Act (H.R.308 | S.152) is so specific that it only applies to one tribe, whose casino happens to be opposed by rivals with existing facilities. The bill suffered a big defeat in the House last November and the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino and Resort opened in December to large crowds.

The Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria are still planning to open casinos on their trust lands and both have won court decisions that require the state to come back to the table to negotiate Class III compacts. In the event agreements aren't reached, the tribes could ask for Class III gaming procedures but H.R.5079 would prohibit the BIA from approving any such procedures if it became law.

The Enterprise Rancheria broke ground on the $170 million Fire Mountain Casino early last month. The facility will feature Class II games until the tribe can secure approval for Class III games.

The full text of Section 3 of the bill follows:

(a) Prohibition On Certain Class III Gaming.—Section 11(d)(7)(B) of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2710(d)(7)(B)) is amended by inserting after clause (vii) the following:

“(viii) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, for any land in California on which Indian gaming was authorized under (25 U.S.C. 2719(b)(1)(A)) and for which the Legislature of the State of California did not ratify a proposed class III Tribal-State gaming compact or for which the electorate of California rejected the approval of a class III Tribal-State gaming compact through a constitutionally valid referendum, the Secretary may not—

“(I) prescribe class III gaming procedures;

“(II) approve a class III gaming compact; or

“(III) consider a class III gaming compact to have been approved by the Secretary, if the Secretary does not approve or disapprove the compact before the date that is 45 days after the date on which the compact is submitted.”.

(b) Clarification.—Nothing in this Act or the amendment made by subsection (a) shall be interpreted to impact the implementation of authorities under the Act of June 18, 1934 (commonly known as the “Indian Reorganization Act”), or any other section of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

(c) Effective Date.—The amendment made by subsection (a) shall be effective as of April 27, 2016.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Documents for Enterprise Rancheria:
Press Release | Fact Sheet | Two-Part Determination Letter

Bureau of Indian Affairs Documents for North Fork Rancheria:
Press Release | Fact Sheet | Section 20 Determination

Federal Register Notices:
Indian Gaming (October 22, 2013)
Land Acquisitions; North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California (December 3, 2012)
Land Acquisitions; Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California (December 3, 2012)

Related Stories:
New bill takes aim at casinos opposed by rival tribes in California (5/2)
Enterprise Rancheria shares $811K as casino work finally begins (04/11)
Enterprise Rancheria looking to expand gaming facility in phases (04/08)
Enterprise Rancheria looking to expand gaming facility in phases (04/08)
Bureau of Indian Affairs still moves slowly on casino applications (04/01)
North Fork Rancheria blasts rival tribes over anti-casino efforts (03/30)
North Fork Rancheria remains confident of off-reservation casino (02/29)
Enterprise Rancheria plans to move forward with compact talks (02/24)
Enterprise Rancheria wins decision in gaming compact lawsuit (02/19)

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