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Supreme Court ruling impacts planned Amador casinos

CA, Northern California
March 9, 2009

JACKSON, CA – The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot place land into trust for tribes recognized after 1934. The transfer of Indian land into federal trust is the fundamental step towards building a casino, and this court decision blocks new casinos planned by tribes not recognized in 1934.

An immediate impact is on the Buena Vista Band of Me-Wuk Indians who planned to build a casino outside of Ione in Amador County, and the Ione Band of Miwok Indians who plan a casino in Plymouth, just 50 miles from Stockton.

"For any tribe not formally recognized on June 18, 1934, this court case establishes a roadblock, which, in my estimation, only Congress can reverse," said Dennis Whittlesey, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in Indian law. He feels the ruling would not impact the Buena Vista tribe's efforts, "because there is no fee to trust application there." The tribe was able to secure gaming land in court by successfully arguing a rancheria is legally the same as a reservation.

Jerry Cassesi, a member of the anti-casino group Friends of Amador County, said his organization's attorney holds the same interpretation.

Other opposition was quick to respond. Butch Cranford, vice president of No Casino in Plymouth, said "This is good news for lots of communities across the U.S. and not so good news for tribes or wannabe tribes. Tribes can still be tribes and still own land. They're just not going to have any special protection the government offered tribes under the Indian Reorganization Act."

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