For The Madera Tribune
This rendering shows how the new North Fork Rancheria Hotel and Casino might look at its location north of Madera.
The California Supreme Court has ruled that former Governor Jerry Brown acted within his authority when he concurred in a pair of federal decisions in 2011 that led to the approval of two so-called “off-reservation” tribal gaming projects in Madera and Yuba counties. In United Auburn Indian Community v. Newsom, the Court determined that the Governor has the right to concur. 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.
“We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor” said North Fork Rancheria Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink. “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 legal case stems back nearly a decade; the Tribe’s pursuit of a casino nearly two. In 2003, the Tribe penned an agreement with Las Vegas-based Station Casinos to develop a casino. The next year, the Tribe requested the federal government to take the proposed site near Madera in trust for gaming purposes. After a rigorous and lengthy federal review, the Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs determined that gaming on the land would be in the best interest of the tribe and not detrimental to the surrounding community, and requested the governor’s concurrence to move forward. A year later, on Aug. 30, 2012, in a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Brown concurred in the determination.
Opponents eventually challenged the Governor’s authority to concur, arguing that California’s Constitution required legislative authorization. In 2017, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to both projects after two appeals courts reached different conclusions. It then took the Court more than 3 1/2 years to rule on the matter.
“While we firmly believe that only federal law controls the gaming eligibility of our trust lands,” said Bethel-Fink, “we are nonetheless delighted to have this long drawn out drama finally behind us — and eager to get going and bring jobs and economic opportunity to our people and community!”