Big Lagoon Rancheria awaits move on Class III gaming compact

An aerial view of the Big Lagoon Rancheria in California. The tribe began construction of a gaming facility in the late 1990s, seen on the right portion of the image, but stopped work after the state objected. Photo from Humboldt County via Stand Up For California

With a landmark court victory in hand, the Big Lagoon Rancheria of California awaits action on its proposed Class III gaming compact.

As part of a closely-watched case, the tribe proved that the state was not negotiating in "good faith." A court-appointed mediator was about to recommend a compact to send to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

But rather than go along with the process, the state questioned the legal status of the tribe's 11-acre casino site and the federal status of the tribe itself. By an 11-0 vote, an en banc panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those arguments in a June 4 decision.

"We look forward to the next stage in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act process, which is for the court-appointed IGRA mediator to notify the Secretary of the Interior of the compact he selected, namely, that proposed by the tribe," attorney Peter Engstrom said in a statement to The Lost Coast Outpost.

The tribe started work on a casino and hotel on the 11-acre parcel in the late 1990s, the Outpost noted. The site is located on the reservation in Big Lagoon, an environmentally-sensitive area on the Pacific coast.

To sway the tribe away from developing the land, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed a compact for an off-reservation casino in Barstow, more than 550 miles from Big Lagoon. The Bush administration rejected the proposal in January 2008, prompting the tribe to walk away from the project and return to the Big Lagoon site.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) hasn't commented on the decision. She could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that would play out during her campaign for U.S. Senate.

Get the Story:
Federal Court Decision Clears Way For Big Lagoon Rancheria to Pursue a Casino-Hotel (The Lost Coast Outpost 6/10)

En Banc 9th Circuit Decision:
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (June 4, 2015)

Earlier 9th Circuit Decision:
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (January 21, 2014)

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