NORTH FORK – With Proposition 48 going down to defeat in Tuesday’s election, what does this mean for the future of the North Fork Mono Casino in Madera?
One thing is certain; it doesn’t mean the end of the casino project. The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians will be moving forward with one or more of several legal remedies available to them.
Whether or not this compact was a legitimate subject for a referendum is one legal question the tribe may continue to challenge.
Proposition 48 was a referendum on the California State Legislature’s ratification of the compact between the State and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe, spearheaded by StandUpCalifornia!. Opponents sought to stop the gaming compact from going into effect, thereby halting progress on the North Fork Tribe’s plans to build a Class III gaming casino on 305 acres of land along Highway 99 north of Madera.
The Tribe applied to the U.S. Department of the Interior to have the land taken into trust for the purposes of gaming, and in 2011, the application was approved by the Secretary of the Interior. In August 2012, Governor Jerry Brown concurred with the decision. The California State Legislature then passed AB 277 in June of 2013, thereby ratifying the compact between the Tribe and the State.
In October 2013, the North Fork Compact was published in the Federal Register, nearly a month before Proposition 48 was certified for the November 2014 ballot. Therefore, the Tribe has argued that the compact was already effective, and was not a proper subject for a referendum.
Another option is for the tribe to negotiate a new compact with the state. They could also choose to open a Class II casino, which does not require a compact at all.
Proponents of Prop. 48 were outspent 38 to 1, with competing casinos providing the lion’s share of the funding to defeat the measure. According to the League of Women Voters, Table Mountain Rancheria ponied up nearly $11 million to fund the opposition, while Brigade Capital – backers of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino – contributed over $3.6 million, and the Chukchansi Economic Development Council, $525,000.
Charles Altekruse, Public Affairs Director for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, says Prop. 48 was just part of a broader strategy by wealthy gaming tribes trying to prevent the Mono from having their own casino.
“This was a very narrow issue that really didn’t need to go to referendum process,” says Altekruse. “It’s obviously an additional tactic to cause a lot of confusion and delay. Our tribe followed every single state and federal law and regulation on the books, and the opponents couldn’t stop us, so they resorted to frivolous lawsuits, and have now used this referendum to try to assert their desire and will on this tribe.”
Altekruse says the Tribe is now deciding on their strongest course of action moving forward, and they will make that determination in the very near future.
“We are a sovereign tribe. We have the Indian land and we believe we have a right to pursue economic development on that land right now. Those things the referendum did not touch. The question of what the referendum means in terms of what the next step is, and how we go about it, will be decided in the coming days. Our plan is to explore every option for moving forward.”