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The Supreme Court of California has granted the final approval to a planned casino in Madera County. 

Titled the North Fork Rancheria Hotel & Casino Resort, this venue will feature both an extensive casino floor and 200-room hotel. 

The court’s decision puts to bed a dispute about whether or not the former State Governor’s approval of two separate “off reservation” tribal casino projects were in his authority. 

As a result, plans to construct and open the venue will now be able to move ahead. 

Moving forward with the new Madera County casino 

The project, which was backed by Stations Casinos, has been a topic of debate for almost two decades. 17 years ago, North Fork Rancheria first discussed the possibility of launching a joint-property with the operator. 

One year after that initial conversation, land near Madera was put into trust after North Fork Rancheria asked the Department of the Interior (DOI) to do so and had their request approved. However, that was far from the end of things. It took until 2012, when ex-California Governor Jerry Brown also gave the project the green light after the request was put forward to him a year earlier. 

That year, Brown said yes to the go-ahead of a project in Yuba County, as well as Madera, as reported by The Business Journal. 

Plain sailing from there, right? Well, no. Other tribes expressed their disapproval and argued that the Governor had overstepped his authority. They argued that full legislative authority was necessary.

In 2017, the case was put forward to the Supreme Court. Once this happened, the court agreed to hear challenging viewpoints on the mega-project; two previous appeals court decisions were inconsistent and left the official status up in the air. But after a lengthy fight, on Monday August 31, the Supreme Court put the case to bed and made the following decision.

California law empowers the Governor to concur. We conclude the Governor acted lawfully when he concurred in the Interior Secretary’s determination.”

So now, finally, the plans first talked about in 2003 are able to go ahead. 

“We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor” 

Elaine Bethel Fink, Chair of North Fork Rancheria, spoke about the Supreme Court’s decision. She had the following to say. 

“We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor. 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.

“While we firmly believe that only federal law controls the gaming eligibility of our trust lands. 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!”

In addition to the 200 rooms at the Madera County venue, the casino will have 2,000 slot machines. There will also be 40 table games for guests and day visitors alike to enjoy. 

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians has over 2,200 tribal citizens, as well as governmental offices, based in Madera County. The tribe is recognized federally as a Native American one. California currently allows gambling at tribal casinos and racetracks. Efforts have been made to introduce sports betting to the most-populated state in the US, but these have so far been fruitless. Nonetheless, it’s likely that the discussion on this particular vertical is far-from-over – especially as other states across the country continue to move forward with their own legislation.

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