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Chris Sieroty

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California's governor green lights Station Casino tribal casino

3 Sep 2012

By Chris Sieroty
Two Las Vegas-style casinos, including one that is a partnership with Station Casinos, will be built miles from their traditional reservation land in California after Gov. Jerry Brown signed two compacts on Friday.

Brown's decision allows the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians near Fresno, Calif., and the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians near Marysville, Calif., to pursue plans to have the federal government put land into trust on which the tribes will build casinos.

In a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Brown said approval of the two casinos is unlikely to allow many other tribes to expand gambling operations in a similar way.

"I expect there will be a few requests from other tribes that will present the same kind of exceptional circumstances to support a similar expansion of tribal gaming land," Brown wrote.

The North Fork casino, a partnership with Station Casinos, is planned for 305 acres adjacent to U.S. Highway 99 near Madera; the Enterprise casino is planned near U.S. Highway 65 in Yuba County.

Opponents of off-reservation casinos say they are likely to fight Brown's decision in court.

David Quintana, political director for the California Tribal Business Alliance, said he expects a "very long fight over these casinos."

"This is a horrible decision," Quintana said. "This changes the face of tribal gaming in California as we have come to know it."

He said he expects Brown's decision to create "a second gold rush" as investors move to finance casino projects. Quintana said there were "plenty of poor cities" that would be interested in having a casino.

Messages left with Station Casinos on Friday were not returned. The Las Vegas-based gaming company entered a development and management deal in December 2003 with the North Fork to oversee construction and then casino operations.

Elaine Bethel-Fink, tribal chair of the North Fork, thanked the governor for approving the new compact, saying the decision "represents a significant step forward in our tribe's dreams of self-sufficiency."

The compact must next be ratified by the California Legislature and then approved by the interior secretary, said Charles Banks-Altekruse, a tribal spokesman.

North Fork wants to build a 2,500-slot, 200-room hotel. In its second quarter earning report, Station Casinos estimated construction on the project "may begin in the second half of 2013" and expects the casino to be completed 18 months later.

The North Fork estimates the casino will generate 4,500 direct and indirect jobs, $100 million a year in economic activity and $5 million a year in community funding for Madera County.

Station Casinos also owns 50 percent of MPM, which manages the Gun Lake Casino in Michigan on behalf of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians. The company also recently secured $825 million needed to finance its project in Sonoma County, Calif., where Station Casinos and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria broke ground on June 18 on a 535,000 square-foot hotel-casino adjacent to Rohnert Park, 43 miles from San Francisco.

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