Supporters of a California referendum that would let the voters decide whether the state’s first off-reservation Indian casino can happen in the Central Valley say they have enough signatures to qualify the measure for the 2014 ballot.
About 504,000 signatures are needed to qualify the measure, but proponents had turned in more than 800,000 to the Secretary of State’s office before the September 30 deadline.
Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the compact with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, which would allow them to build the North Fork Rancheria Resort Hotel & Casino in Madera County, criticized the referendum effort. “It’s unfortunate that tens of millions of dollars will now go to fight over this,” said the governor during a speech at the Capitol in Sacramento before tribal leaders. “I think this is a dispute about money, mostly—money and competition.”
Opponents of the casino say it creates a bad precedent and violates the spirit of the 2000 constitutional amendment Prop. 1A that allowed Indian casinos in the Golden State, and which promised that such casinos would never be built in urban areas. “Voters should have a chance to weigh in to see if this is a good deal or not,” said a spokesman for the group pushing the referendum.
That effort has so far been well-funded, having raised over $1.6 million to help in the collection of signatures. One of the major funders is Table Mountain Rancheria, which operates near the proposed casino site, and which has contributed $660,000 so far to the effort. Brigade Capitol Management, an investor in the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold, contributed another $600,000. A study commissioned by the Chukchansi concluded that the tribe would lose 38 percent of its revenue if the Madera casino opens.
This would be the first time California voters have been asked to decide the fate of an individual casino compact, although in 2008 they approved revised casino compacts for state tribes. But it’s also a first in that this is the first off-reservation casino approved in the state. The site of the proposed 2,000-slot and 50-gaming table casino is on 305 acres 35 miles from the tribe’s traditional homeland.