Nation | Tribe: North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians
Highway 99 at Avenue 17
North Fork Rancheria plans to build a $400 million casino and hotel on Highway 99 near Madera, California. A groundbreaking set for June 2021 was blocked by the California 5th District Court of Appeal. The next legal step for the tribe is pending.
Rendering of North Fork Mono Indian casino 2021
The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is building a casino and hotel in Madera, California that will include 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games. a 200-room hotel, two restaurants and a food court, an entertainment lounge, retail space and meeting rooms.
The tribe began their pursuit to build a casino in 2003. Their plan was approved in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Interior under terms of the Indian Gaming Reglatory Act. The next year a state-tribe gaming compact was negotiated and signed with Gov. Jerry Brown.
Legal challenges in 2013 and 2014 stopped the start of construction. The cases were overthrown by the California Supreme Court in August 2020 allowing construction of the casino to proceed. See history
The Madera casino site is located on Avenue 17 just west of the intersection with State Route 99. This is a 305-acre site between Madera and Chowchilla and within the Tribe's ancestral lands.
Original rendering of casino and hotel in 2013
The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians began their pursuit to build this casino in 2003. That year the tribe signed a development and management agreement with Station Casinos to oversee construction and manage the casino operations.
The federal government approved the casino plan under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The approval followed an environmental impact study and local agreement.
Gov. Jerry Brown negotiated a gaming compact with the tribe on Aug. 31, 2012. The compact was approved by the state assembly May 2, 2013, and the state senate approved it June 27,2013. Gov. Brown signed their legislation a week later.
Construction of the Madera casino hotel could not begin due to legal challenges from activist groups. Final resolutions were needed before proceeding.
A major lawsuit was settled in the tribe's favor on March 14, 2014 when a Madera County judge ruled that the state process authorizing the casino was constitutional.
In November 2014 a ballot referendum on off-reservation gaming (Proposition 48) was rejected by voters. This effectively stopped construction of this project. A legal challenge was started to determine if the referendum could nullify the tribe's gaming compact with the state.
In November 2015, a U.S. District Court judge ordered Gov. Jerry Brown and the North fork Rancheria to return to gaming negotiations. When that failed a mediator was assigned who decided in favor of the tribe. The state was given till April 11th to agree to the compact, otherwise the tribe could take the compact to the U.S. Interior Department for approval.
In July 2016 the Interior Department gave federal approval to the gaming compact.
Several lawsuits to stop construction were pending. The tribe had no construction timeline. However, it considered a multi-phase construction plan to begin during the legal delays.
On April 10 a Circuit Court panel in Washington, D.C. upheld a lower court ruling against the activist group Stand Up For California. The decision affirmed the Department of Interior acted within the proper authority to approve the transfer of the 305-acre casino site into federal trust.
On July 23, 2018 a U.S. District Court rejected a lawsuit against the Madera casino that was brought by nearby private businesses and casino interests.
In a major legal decision Aug. 30, 2020, the California Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Jerry Brown had the authority to approve the Madera casino, and therefore, the construction can move forward.
In a case filed by Stand Up For California the State's 5th District Court of Appeals ruled that a 2014 voter referendum had annulled then-Gov. Jerry Brown's authority to sign a gaming compact with the North Fork Rancheria.
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October 28, 2021
Few details have been recently released regarding development of the North Fork Rancheria Casino in Madera, California. However, new activity has been reported in a news item released by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Oct. 11th.
The Department has issued an alcohol license for the Madera casino to serve beer, wine and liquor. The license was issued under Rule 64B, which allows licensing during the construction phase of the casino.
No other activity has been reported on the Madera casino project over the past six months.
June 12, 2021
As the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians prepared to break ground this month on a $400 million casino and hotel project in Madera County, the California 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that a 2014 voter referendum to end off-reservation casinos had annulled then-Gov. Jerry Brown's authority to negotiate a gaming compact with the North Fork Rancheria.
The tribe's plan to build an off-reservation casino along Highway 99 was approved by the U.S. Department of Interior in 2011. Gov. Brown negotiated a compact with the tribe in 2012, which was ratified by the state legislature the same year.
The court issued this statement in its opinion regarding the impact of the 2014 voter referendum:
"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."
This case was filed against the North Fork Rancheria by the activist group Stand Up For California.
May 15, 2021
Finally, the North Fork Rancheria casino will break ground on their new casino in late June. The $400 million construction project will be located off Hwy 99 between Ave 17 and Ave 18 near Madera, California.
The casino was originally proposed in 2003 and federally approved in 2011. A state-tribe gaming compact was signed with Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. However, lawsuits postponed construction until the California Supreme Court cleared the path to proceed with construction.
The casino will feature 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games, two restaurants and a food court. Construction is expected to take 15-18 months to complete.
September 5, 2020
A ten-year-old case was decided by the California Supreme Court last week giving final approval to the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians to proceed with construction on a casino hotel off Highway 99 in Madera County.
In a press release North Fork Rancheria Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink wrote:
"We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor. Our tribal citizens and local community have been denied the advantages of tribal gaming - billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs - for far too long.
"The decision will allow the North Fork Rancheria to move forward with the design, financing, and construction of its long-awaited and highly anticipated project north of the city of Madera."
The case was filed against the casino by the United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria, which owns the Thunder Valley Casino Resort. The Auburn Rancheria sought to invalidate Gov. Brown's approval in 2012, however, the state Supreme Court agreed 5-2 that Brown had authority to OK the casino.
The North Fork Rancheria casino and hotel will be built off Highway 99 at Avenue 17 near Madera, California. It will operate 2,000 slot machines and 40 table games and host a 200-room hotel.
January 10, 2020
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear a case Feb 11 against the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and its plans to build a casino in Madera County, California. This is case appealed from a district court that ruled in favor of the tribe over an opposition group of nearby private businesses and casino interests. The central issue was whether the U.S. Department of Interior followed proper procedures in approving the tribe's application for the Madera casino.
Since 2003 the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians has pursued plans to build a resort hotel and casino on ancestral land between Chowchilla and Madera, California. The location is a short distance from three other casinos which will be financially impacted by the new casino. These are Club One Casino in Fresno, Table Mountain Casino in Friant, and Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold.
Tribal leaders of the Mono Indians expect a favorable ruling from the Appeals Court, which will remove the last legal roadblock before starting construction.
July 23, 2018
The U.S. District Court has ruled in favor of a proposed gaming facility that would be tribal owned in Madera County.
The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians have been trying to operate gaming on 300 acres of their land. Previously it was approved by the Department of the Interior. Shortly after the approval, a lawsuit was set against the Department and the tribe. Against the casino facility is The Deuce Lounge and the Club One Casino.
The opposing side to the tribe argued that it was not clear who had the right to give permission for the tribe to operate their casino on that land. Part of their case involved the Administrative Procedures Act. They believed that the Department of the Interior was not within their authority to approve the land use.
They also argued that the location of the North Fork tribe's casino would hurt their businesses. Deuce Lounge is located in Goshen. Fresno is the location for Club One.
The North Fork casino would also be classified as a Class II gaming facility. They would also be allowed to offer blackjack, poker, and baccarat. Games where players bet against each other and not the house. Games like slot machines would not be allowed.
Lawsuits to prevent the North Fork from moving forward with casino plans started nearly 13 years ago. This was when an application was submitted to have land placed into trust for the tribe. At that time the tribe knew they had interested in developing a Class III casino. A gaming compact was agreed upon between the governor and the tribe in 2012. Then it became part of Assembly Bill 277. It was signed the following year by the governor. In 2014 the gaming compact was set to go into effect. However, it was sent to the voters to decide and it failed.
The request to begin negations again happened early in 2015. However, the request was denied since a large number of voters rejected the compact.
Another lawsuit was filed. This time by the tribe seeking the state to come to an agreement. After 60 days had passed, and no new agreement could be reached mediation had to take place. In mediation the offer from the North Fork tribe was accepted.
In the court order, the tribe was voted in favor that they could operate a Class III casino without a compact with the state. This occurred in 2016. The order was issued by the secretary of the Interior under Secretarial Procedures.
The next lawsuit was then to determine if the Department of the Interior acted within their rights by granting the permission. Opposition argued that the this was not investigated.
Ultimately the courts sided with the tribe and closed the case to any further lawsuits.
April 13, 2018
A recent ruling by the federal appellate court has moved plans forward for the proposed casino for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The casino would be developed four miles north of Madera and off of Highway 99.
On April 10 the Circuit Court panel in Washington, D.C. decided that a ruling made by a lower court should be upheld. In that lawsuit the Interior Department was challenged over a decision to approve land be taken into trust for the tribe. The court sided with the tribe ruling that the department acted within the proper authority.
Stand Up For California was the group of organizations and residents that opposed the casino project. A petition was circulated to stop it from being developed. The issue for the lawsuit by the group was due to the land being taken into trust illegally. One reason was that the proposed casino site property was not considered tribal land. North Fork is located nearly 35 miles from the proposed site.
However, it was decided by the federal appellate court that the land was lawfully taken into trust by the Interior Department. The North Fork tribe was within their right to move forward with their casino project. It was decided by the panel that the previous court ruling was consistent with the law.
When completed, the $250 million casino will operate 40 table games and 2,000 slot machines. In time, there will also be multiple restaurants and a hotel added.
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