A dissenting faction of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indian tribe last month attempted to take over the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Northern California. Armed guards stormed the property and confronted unarmed security guards.
The Madera County Sheriff’s Department was called in to separate the factions, and the hotel and casino were closed in a night of chaos. Power was cut to the resort and employees went home, leaving guests to fend for themselves. Some could not access their rooms or retrieve their cars from the valet parking lot, and players were not allowed to cash in their chips after being ushered from the casino.
“They threw us all out,” Donn Hansler of Merced told the Fresno Bee. “I ended up getting screwed out of my money.”
The next day, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill acted on an emergency request by the state attorney general, and shut the casino down, with no date scheduled for a possible reopening. The National Indian Gaming Commission followed suit later in the day.
The action follows a threat by the NIGC to close the casino by October 27. The NIGC cited unfiled and missing audits. The agency is also fining the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indian tribe $100,000 a day for failing to file the documents. The tribe, it says, has failed to file the required documents since 2012.
Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said the takeover was the last straw.
“When they move the war into the casino, it meant we had to stop this,” Anderson said. “We have not been getting closer to a solution. If anything, we have gotten farther away.”
This newest drama appears to be related to an ongoing power struggle between two factions of the tribe, one of which has barricaded itself inside of an office complex on the reservation.
One of these groups is composed of Reggie Lewis and Nancy Ayala. They run the casino. The other group, led by Tex McDonald, is operating in the tribal business complex.
The confrontation between the two factions centered around the tribal gaming commission offices, where members of the McDonald faction attempted to remove documents, but were stopped by sheriff’s deputies. McDonald’s group said they wanted to comply with the NIGC audit and were simply attempting to get documentation that would satisfy the agency.