COARSEGOLD – The situation at the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino does not appear to be any closer to a resolution. At this time, the casino is “open,” but there are no employees on the premises.
Restaurants, the gaming room and the bar are all closed, and General Manager Giffan Tan has directed his employees not to come to work, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
Currently the Lewis faction is on the 11th floor, while the McDonald faction remains on the 1st floor, after what appears to have been a forceful takeover last night, with security guards being herded into a room at gunpoint, Tasered, and at least one being punched in the head.
The Sheriff’s Office reports that there are two Tribal Police groups, one for each faction, and that they have received conflicting allegations as to what occurred last evening when the McDonald faction’s Tribal Police entered the casino.
“Until we can ascertain the truth and identify those responsible, we are unable to respond to statements made to us by either faction, or from citizens who complained,” says Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Erica Stuart.
Tribal Police have full authority powers on tribal land, and they are authorized to carry a weapon if they have either received special training from the BIA, or are California Peace Officers.
“Until we know if all parties involved are true Tribal Police, we cannot state who had authority to carry a weapon and who did not,” says Stuart. “That is being investigated.”
Without definitive knowledge of just who has the authority as the legitimate Tribal Police force, the Sheriff’s Office is in an untenable position. When a person is held against their will, that is defined as kidnapping. When police detain someone, that is defined as someone making a lawful arrest.
As to the dolly full of documents the McDonald faction was attempting to remove yesterday, the Sheriff’s Office says it cannot confirm what those documents were. However, they were advised that they were gaming commission information that the McDonald faction wanted placed back in the Butler building – the tribal offices located on Road 417.
The incident in the lobby of the casino last night has pushed this conflict onto a new playing field. Unlike in years past when tribal security/Tribal Police were stationed at the Tribal compound located on Road 417, any disturbance that arose did not affect the safety and welfare of the public.
When the conflict happened inside the casino itself, everything changed. What was originally deemed an internal conflict by state and federal agencies, Sheriff Anderson argues has now become an external conflict, and he has reached out to the BIA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office to please step in and respond to the current situation.
The Sheriff continues to negotiate with both factions and continues discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Attorney General in hopes of resolving this matter. At this hour the Sheriff has not received word on what actions they may or may not take.
Patrons who had rooms in the hotel last night and were unable to access their rooms due to the fact there was an electrical problem and their key cards didn’t work, were escorted back to their rooms today and were able to retrieve their belongings.
There is no word on when employees might expect to be able to return to work.
The National Indian Gaming Commission has issued a closure order on the Chukchansi Casino, effective Oct. 27, for failures to submit audits and financial statements by the past Tribal Councils and Tribal Gaming Commissions of the Picayune Rancheria, and over 1,000 jobs are threatened if the closure takes effect.
**Update 6 p.m. Friday – The Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino will reportedly be shut down until at least. Oct. 15, after the warring factions’ dispute erupted into violence on Thursday night. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has requested that a federal judge issue a restraining order to shut down the hotel and casino to protect the employees and the public.**