Enterprise Rancheria puts a pause on casino work amid uncertainty

Glenda Nelson, the chairwoman of the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria, is seen at the groundbreaking of the Fire Mountain Casino in California on April 8, 2016. Photo courtesy Enterprise Rancheria

The Enterprise Rancheria of California has put a temporary hold on work at its long-delayed casino.

The tribe broke ground on the Fire Mountain Casino in April and hopes to open the 140,000 square-foot facility in April or May of 2017. But permanent financing has been difficult to secure due to ongoing legal, regulatory and political challenges, Chairwoman Glenda Nelson said.

"The continued delay-and-obstruct tactics of a small number of opponents have temporarily forced our tribe and community into this situation,” Nelson said in a press release. “We still believe that the project will go forward, that key decisions will be made any day now, and that construction should take about a year once restarted – just as we did when we broke ground in April, but for right now we are forced to temporarily stop.”

Opposition from rival tribes killed the Class III gaming compact for the casino. That forced the Enterprise Rancheria to file a lawsuit that accused the state of failing to negotiate in "good faith" as required by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Judge Troy L. Nunley sided with the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is now determining whether to issue Class III gaming procedures for the project. A ruling could come in a matter of weeks.

Rival tribes also sued the BIA for approving the land-into-trust application for the casino site and for approving the casino under the two-part determination provisions of IGRA. Nunley sided with the Obama administration last September but opponents are seeking a reconsideration.

“Delays, lost economic benefits, and added project costs stemming from abusive claims and lawsuits are not the fault of the courts or government agencies,” Nelson said. “They’re doing the best they can but are simply overwhelmed just dealing with dubious tactics aimed at clogging up the system.”

Additionally, rival tribes are asking Congress to pass H.R.5079, the California Compact Protection Act. The bill was written to prevent the BIA from authorizing or allowing Class III gaming on the 40-acre site that was placed in trust for the Enterprise Rancheria.

But the bill was narrowly written to ensure that the gaming rights of the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians, also known as the Colusa Indian Community, and the United Auburn Indian Community, won't be harmed in the future. Both tribes are fighting Fire Mountain out of fear it will hurt their existing casinos.

Read More on the Story:
Fire Mountain Casino work halts as federal decisions loom (The Marysville Appeal-Democrat 7/26)
Tribe stops construction on casino near Marysville (The Sacramento Business Journal 7/26)
Tribe halts construction on Yuba casino (The Sacramento Bee 7/27)

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:
Press Release | Fact Sheet | Two-Part Determination Letter

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions; Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California (December 3, 2012)

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