Appeals court ruling halts North Fork casino project

A ruling by the Fresno-based Fifth District Court of Appeal sets up a likely battle before California’s Supreme Court over the fate of a Highway 99 adjacent casino.

Just days after a top executive with Las Vegas-based Red Rock Resorts said that construction on the Fresno area’s newest Indian gaming casino would break ground before the end of June, the 5th District Court of Appeal sided with project opponents.

In a ruling last month, a three-member panel of the Fresno-based state appellate court ruled that the results of a 2014 statewide referendum prevented then-Gov. Jerry Brown from signing off on the Department of Interior’s decision to move 305 acres along Highway 99 into trust for the off-reservation casino project envisioned by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.


“We conclude the people retained the power to annul a concurrence by the governor and the voters exercised this retained power at the 2014 election by impliedly revoking the concurrence for the Madera site,” the appellate opinion stated.

Stand Up for California!, a statewide activist group that often opposes gaming developments, brought the lawsuit against the state and the North Fork Rancheria.

61% of California Voters Opposed Indian Gaming Referendum

Adoption of 2014’s Proposition 48, which was titled the “Indian Gaming Compacts Referendum,” would have paved the way for the casino.

However, more than 4.2 million voters, or 61% of those who cast ballots in the election, opposed the proposition.

The tribe wants to build adjacent to Highway 99 between Avenue 17 and Avenue 18 in Madera County. Plans call for a 213,000-square-foot project housing 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games, two stand-alone restaurants, and a “food hall” concept.

In another Indian casino case, the  state Supreme Court ruled that the governor had the power to concur with Interior’s decisions involving gaming on tribal trust land.

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