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Inner tribal dispute threatens Sacramento’s Thunder Valley Casino

A massive rift has developed among members of the Northern California Indian tribe that operates the Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento. According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, seven members of the United Auburn Indian Community — including a former chairwoman — are being stripped of casino payments of $30,000 a month or more and banished from tribal functions.

Documents obtained by the newspaper show intense divisions within the tribe, despite apparent net casino profits of $1.15 billion between July 2003 and January 2009.

Station Casinos helped build, open and operate Thunder Valley for the tribe under a seven-year management agreement that expired in 2010. The contract has been planned as a one-time deal and the United Auburn Indians took control of the property on their own.

Station Casinos had received 24 percent of the property’s net income as a management fee.

Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling at the University of Nevada, Reno, told the newspaper the United Auburn fight reflects divisions that can envelop tribes as immense profits magnify differences among members and generations of families. He likened the feud to a rift that led the wealthy Penchanga tribe of Temecula in Southern California to expel scores of members. 

Eadington estimated that Thunder Valley might have annual gross revenues of $400 million to $500 million, likely outperforming "even the best properties" in Las Vegas. 

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