MADERA COUNTY — The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) has entered into a settlement agreement with Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians that will help move them forward toward reopening their Coarsegold casino.
In October, 2014, the NIGC Chairman issued a notice of violation and temporary closure order for all gaming activity at the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino because the Tribe was operating the gaming facility in a manner that threatened public health and safety. The Chairman had also issued notices of violation and a temporary closure order because the Tribe had failed to submit annual independent audits, financial statements, and agreed-upon procedure reports for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
The settlement agreement resolves these issues and seeks to ensure the ongoing health and safety of the gaming operation and its employees and patrons, says the NIGC.
On Nov. 25, the Madera County Board of Supervisors voted to ratify a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority, taking the first step toward getting the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino reopened. It was shut down In October 2014 after an attempted armed takeover by one of the warring factions claiming to be the legitimate tribal government.
This recent settlement agreement with the NIGC allows the Tribe to reopen its gaming facility under certain conditions. A significant condition of the settlement agreement is that the Tribe agrees to pay a fine in the amount of $19,845,000, a portion of which will be suspended as long as the Tribe adheres to the settlement agreement.
The agreement further details both pre-opening conditions and post-opening conditions the Tribe must meet to ensure the safety and health of patrons and employees and compliance with NIGC audit regulations, including a requirement for the NIGC to conduct a full Internal Control Assessment within nine months of the opening date.
The Agreement specifies that if anything occurs to threaten the health and safety of the facility or its patrons and employees, the closure orders will be immediately reinstated and the suspended fine amount will be due. Furthermore, if deadlines or terms of the agreement are not met by the Tribe, the settlement agreement provides that the Tribe must cease and desist all gaming activity.
NIGC will continue to monitor the Tribe’s gaming activity and enforce the settlement agreement, as well as investigate and enforce against any new or reoccurring threat to health and safety, or violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, NIGC’s regulations and the Tribe’s Gaming Ordinance.
In line with Chairman Chaudhuri’s principles and priorities, the National Indian Gaming Commission says it is committed to acting swiftly on anything that jeopardizes the health and safety of the public at gaming establishments, including employees and patrons, and using appropriate agency authority to address and mitigate activity that jeopardizes the integrity of Indian gaming and, by extension, the valuable self-determination tool that it represents for Tribes.
The Indian gaming industry includes more than 450 gaming establishments, associated with nearly 242 tribes across 28 states.
“The Commission’s dedication to compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ensures the integrity of the $28.5 billion Indian gaming industry,” says the NIGC in a prepared statement.
In order to reopen, the Tribe must still get a favorable ruling from the U.S. District Court, lifting the injunction imposed in October 2014 that closed the casino. There must also be no objection from the governor’s office to any ruling from the court.
The National Indian Gaming Commission is an independent regulatory agency established within the Department of the Interior pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.