Chukchansi Tribe still trying to prevent another tribe from opening casino

The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians owns and operates the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold, California. Photo from Facebook

The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians is still trying to prevent a fellow tribe in California from joining the gaming industry.

The tribe -- whose leadership was in such disarray that its casino was shut down by federal authorities for 14 months -- filed a new lawsuit on July 1. The complaint argues that the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians cannot use its trust land for gaming even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) approved such a project.

The lawsuit is in addition to one that the tribe filed against Brown for approving the North Fork Rancheria's proposed off-reservation casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. And the tribe is participating in yet another case as a friend of the court.

"These legal actions are required because North Fork's backers are ignoring existing law and the will of California's voters who overwhelmingly rejected the plan just a few years ago," Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales said in a press release.

The litigious stance drew a rebuke from the leader of the North Fork Rancheria, Chairwoman Maryann McGovran. She said the Chukchansis continue to waste their own people's money out of fear of new competition.

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

"Compared to the combative and litigious approach of some tribes, our respectful, collaborative, transparent approach has earned the support and respect of our county government officials, chambers of commerce, and neighbors," McGovran said in a statement to The Sierra Star.

The new Chukchansi complaint, a copy of which was posted by Turtle Talk, acknowledges that North Fork's casino would cause "significant financial harm" to the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino. That facility was shuttered for 14 months because Chukchansi leaders couldn't agree on who was in charge.

More than 1,000 people were put out of work and the tribe lost million of dollars in revenues during the shutdown.

The tribe subsequently agreed to a fine of $19.845 million for numerous violations of IGRA. But only 500,000 will be paid as long as the terms of a settlement with the National Indian Gaming Commission are kept.

Separately, the tribe has asked Congress to pass H.R.5079, the California Compact Protection Act. The bill was written to prevent the North Fork Rancheria from offering Class III gaming on its trust lands.

In order for the bill to have an effect, the North Fork Rancheria's lands must be treated as "Indian lands" as that term is defined by IGRA. But in the new lawsuit, the Chukchansis argue the exact opposite -- that the North Fork Rancheria does not have valid "Indian lands."

H.R.5079 has not been granted a hearing since its introduction in April.

Get the Story:
Judge orders briefings on North Fork casino plan (The Sierra Star 7/13)

Tribal Leader Opinions on H.R.5079, the California Compact Protection Act:
Maryann McGovran: Don't be fooled by efforts of 'wealthy' tribes (5/13)
Claudia Gonzales: Off-reservation gaming fuels attacks on tribes (5/13)

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)

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