North Fork Rancheria Casino Opponents Score Legal Win, Could Delay Red Rock Project

Posted on: June 12, 2021, 01:19h. 

Last updated on: June 12, 2021, 05:53h.

A California court recently sided with opponents of a planned tribal casino in Fresno. The court said then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) decision to approve the project violated the results of a 2014 ballot initiative.

Madera casino
Officials from the the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians seen on proposed casino land in 2014. An opposition group recently won a legal victory. (Image: Fresno Bee)

The state’s 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that Brown’s approval of plans by the North Fork Rancheriaof Mono Indians into a trust was not correct. Brown moved 305 acres of land situated along Highway 99 into a trust to construct a tribal gaming venue, a decision violating Proposition 48. Also known as the “Indian Gaming Compacts Referendum,” the initiative was approved by 4.2 million California voters in that mid-term election year in which Brown won a second term.

We conclude the people retained the power to annul a concurrence by the governor and the voters exercised this retained power at the 2014 election by impliedly revoking the concurrence for the Madera site,” according to the court’s decision.

Las Vegas-based Red Rock Resorts, Inc.’s Station Casinos is partnering with North Fork Rancheria on the project. Stand Up for California!, a group with a lengthy history of opposing casino expansion in the state, brought the litigation against the state and the tribe.

Long, Winding Road for North Fork Casino

Proposals for the Fresno tribal casino date back to 2003, with North Fork Rancheria winning federal approval in 2004 to move the land into a trust.

In 2012, Brown agreed to the plan. But after two appeals courts disagreed with the governor, Stand Up for California! successfully navigated the case to the US Supreme Court. Opposition to the project stems, in part, from the fact there are already three tribal casinos near Madera – the area in which North Fork and Red Rock are aiming to build the new venue. The Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, Table Mountain Casino, and the Club One Casino are close by.

Last year, the Mono Indians’ case, Club One Casino, Inc. v. David Bernhardt, went before the California Supreme Court. More recently, it appeared as though the tribe and Red Rock were prepared to break ground on the venue, perhaps as soon as this month.

The project’s fate could hinge on how courts interpret the purview of Proposition 48 and its impact on Brown’s concurrence on gaming matters following passage of the initiative.

Proposition 48 would ratify gaming compacts between California and two Native American tribes: the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, and the Wiyot Tribe,” according to California Choices. “A ‘yes’ vote on the measure would uphold contested legislation AB 277, which was enacted by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2013. A ‘no’ vote would overturn AB 277.”

Invalidated Concurrence

In the most recent suit, Stand Up for California! contends Prop 48 invalidates Brown’s power of concurrence.

“We are not concerned with the relationship between two branches of government, but the relationship between the state’s executive officer and the people. Identifying the equilibrium established by our state constitution in that relationship must reflect the fundamental principle that all political power is derived from the people,” according to the District Court’s opinion.

Translation: The court views Prop 48 as a valid annulment of Brown’s 2012 concurrence on the gaming project.