Governor announces compact with tribe for Madera casino

By Garance, Burke
Fresno, California (AP) 4-08

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a deal April 27 that will allow a tribe to build a casino in the Central Valley, in exchange for sending some of its proceeds to an impoverished Northern California tribe that has given up the right to build its own gaming facilities.

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians plans to construct a $250 million casino on a plot of land along Highway 99, a heavily traveled corridor just north of the city of Madera.

Because that parcel lies about 35 miles from the tribe’s original reservation in the Sierra Nevada foothills, they need the U.S. Department of Interior to approve the land purchase before they can build the hotel and casino.

The deal also requires final approval from the state legislature to move forward. 


Under the terms of the compact, the Mono tribe will send as much as $5 million each year generated by its 2,500 slot machines to the Wiyot Tribe, whose ancestral lands are in Humboldt County.

In exchange, the estimated 600 Wiyot tribal citizens have agreed not to develop a casino on their rancheria, which is located on a bluff bordered by the ecologically sensitive Humboldt Bay.

Leaders from both tribes say the casino will lift members out of poverty and provide 1,500 permanent jobs.

“There are 2,300 people total that this development is going to be helping,” North Fork tribal chairwoman Elaine Bethel-Fink said Monday. “I would just like to see (our people have) a roof that doesn’t leak and things inside the house that are adequate for just normal living.”

The Madera County Board of Supervisors and City of Madera threw their support behind the project three years ago.

But the casino has faced considerable opposition in public meetings, where hundreds of opponents have said it would bring increased traffic, crime and air pollution to the valley.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, opposes the agreement, and recently introduced a bill that would keep the governor from negotiating compacts until a tribe actually owns the land where they propose to build a casino.

Schwarzenegger estimates the casino will add an annual $25 million to the state’s general fund in shared “net win” profits from slots and banked card games during the first seven years it’s open.