Casino project with Station Casinos ties OK'd by California Senate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California State Senate approved a compact that allows the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, in conjunction with Las Vegas-based Station Casinos, to build a gaming resort north of Fresno, nearly 40 miles from the tribe’s reservation.

The federal government and Gov. Jerry Brown decided that the Madera County location along Highway 99 has historic ties to the 1,900-member tribe.

The planned North Fork casino is expected to have 50 table games, 2,000 slot machines and cost $200 million. A schedule for development has not been released.

Station Casinos has had a management agreement in place with the tribe since 2003.

Opponents say the off-reservation casino sets a precedent that could lead to Las Vegas-style gambling in urban areas. Lawmakers are forming a panel to study the issue.

The tribe, which was first recognized by the U.S. government in 1915, has 61 acres of reservation land in the Madera County town of North Fork. But tribal members said the site is too remote for a casino.

The project would be Station Casinos second current Indian gaming development in California.

The company is near completion of the $800 million Graton Resort & Casino near Santa Rosa, Calif. The project, in conjunction with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, is expected to open in November.

Assembly Bill 277 also ratifies an agreement with the Wiyot tribe, which agreed not to open a casino on its Humboldt County property if it receives a portion of the revenue from the Madera County casino.

The Senate approved the compact 22-11 on Thursday, sending it to Brown for his signature.

Review-Journal reporter Howard Stutz contributed to this report.