SACRAMENTO -- A Central Valley Indian tribe has earned the right to build a new casino with 2,000 slot machines near the city of Madera, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.
Brown's action permits the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to proceed with the controversial casino, ending a fight that divided Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento and could reshape the future of gambling in California.
The deal was made possible through a rare federal approval process that allowed the tribe to build on land it has just recently acquired. Federal law stipulates that typically casinos can be built only on lands recognized as belonging to tribes before 1988, the year the federal government officially sanctioned tribal gambling.
The exception made for North Fork angered other neighboring and large casino-owning tribes around the state who said the North Fork were "reservation shopping." The new location's proximity to a major state highway and the city of Madera also touched off concerns about the encroachment of Indian casinos into urban areas.
Brown also signed a measure expanding work furlough programs offered in county jails to nonviolent felons assigned there rather than prison as part of state efforts to reduce the prison population. AB 752 by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) is supported by the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and Chief Probation Officers of California. It expands a furlough program currently only allowed for those convicted of misdemeanors, nonpayment of fines and contempt.
The California District Attorneys Assn. opposed the bill as a "further attempt to blur the line between persons sentenced to county jail after a felony conviction because of realignment and misdemeanants sentenced to county jail."