The decision by California Governor Jerry Brown in August to approve of two off-reservation requests for tribes to put land into trust could open the northern part of the state to urban casinos, say critics. California already has the largest number of Indian casinos in the nation, and its market is .9 billion a year.
The compacts require approval by the legislature and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Although it figures that opponents of casino gaming would oppose such a development, so also do tribes that currently operate casinos in the northern part of the state.
David Quintana, a spokesman for the California Tribal Business Alliance, which represents many of those tribes, called Brown’s move “a horrible decision.”
“This will create what I call ‘a new Gold Rush’ in California,” he said, noting that the original constitutional amendment that authorized Indian gaming in the state took into account tribes who lived on reservations that were not suitable for casinos. It provided for them to be paid from the gaming profits of tribes able to build in suitable places.
“The idea of allowing gambling was that if you can put a casino on your land, that’s awesome, but if not, you don’t,” he said. “These two casinos do have land, but it’s just not in areas that are good for putting up a casino. So, they shouldn’t be doing this,” he said last month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
However, the tribes themselves and businesses nearby are looking forward to the customers and dollars the casinos are likely to generate.
The North Fork Ranchera of Mono Indians, which is based in Madera County, has received permission to build a casino with 2,000 slots near Fresno, 38 miles from its original reservation.
The Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians, near Oroville, was granted permission to build a 2,000-slot casino near Marysville in Yuba County.
Critics, such as Cheryl Schmit of the casino watchdog group Stand Up for California, predict that casinos could be built anywhere now, including the Bay Area. When he made the decision, Brown asserted that no other tribe would be able to do the same. He called their circumstances “exceptional.”
A spokesman for the governor told GGB News that it was unlikely other tribes would be granted a trust.
“I expect there will be few requests from other tribes that will present the same kind of exceptional circumstances to support a similar expansion of tribal gaming land,” Brown said in a letter to Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar on the North Fork and Enterprise proposals.