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CA. Indian Tribes To Build Casinos Off Reservation
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CA. Indian Tribes To Build Casinos Off Reservation

For the first time I California’s history, the state has issued preliminary approval to two Indian tribes to build casinos off of reservation land, in or near the cities of Madera and Yuba City.

The move worries some anti-gambling activists, but many say the move is long overdue. The anti-gambling forces insist this opens the door for what will become a rush to open more casinos in off-reservation lands, including the Bay Area.

The tribes are both low in population; Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians numbers only 800 people, while the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians holds about 1950 people.

The Mono Indian tribe, located near Oakhurst in Madera County, wants to build a 2000 slot machine casino just north of Fresno in Madera. According to tribe officials, the casino would generate more than $100 million in wages and other revenue into the local economy; as in many places, at this point in time jobs are always a major concern to state and local regulators.

The Maidu Indians want to build a similar facility and locate it near Yuba City – their estimates puts the amount generated by the casino at around $280 million dollars. Governor Jerry Brown has already approved the two casino plans this year, on August 30, and says that he doubts other tribes will be able to do perform similar actions.

In Brown’s letter to the Secretary of the Interior of the United States Ken Salazar, Brown cited ‘exceptional circumstances’ in the case of the two tribes. These include the impoverished state of the tribes and the historical connections of the tribes to the land in question. The scheme has already received tentative approval by the Department of the Interior, but for it to go through it will still need the approval of the California legislature.

That is not expected to be a problem as the state is strapped for more revenue and jobs. Some of the opposition is being mounted by tribes which have casinos close to the two sites; the California Tribal Business Alliance said that the plan is “a horrible decision”.

According to Charles Banks-Altekruse, who acts as a consultant and spokesman for both tribes, says the casinos will “bring jobs and critical investment to these needy areas of the Central Valley. These casinos will bring in thousands of jobs, and that is a huge benefit.”

Both the Madera Chamber of Commerce and the Madera County Board of Supervisors have been for the idea, and in Yuba County there have been studies done which show the new facility would bring in $5 million annually just to the county alone, including much needed jobs.

Both entities say that most of the opposition comes from operators of other casinos who are afraid the new facilities would draw some of their existing customers away, but it remains to be seen exactly what the impact would be on that. It would not be the first time cities and counties, and often states, struggle over residents leaving one area to go to another to gamble.

The California State Legislature will be the next government body to take up the matter, and will probably address the issue in the first part of 2013, but thus far it has not been scheduled.

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