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Voters may decide fate of Central Valley tribal casino

ElectionsPoliticsLifestyle and LeisureNorth Fork

Anti-gambling activists and Native American tribes that own some of the largest casinos in the state were unable to stop state lawmakers from approving a new casino deal in Madera County earlier this year. Now, they’re hoping state voters will halt the project.

Opponents of a new casino planned by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians submitted more than 800,000 signatures in county offices across the state on Tuesday to place the fate of the new casino before voters next fall.

After a divisive fight in the Legislature, lawmakers agreed to allow the tribe to build a new casino with 2,000 slot machines on a 300-acre parcel just north of Madera in the Central Valley that was once slated to be a NASCAR track.

The federal government gave the tribe control of the land less than a year ago, and opponents say it could lead to tribes' “reservation shopping” in hopes of building casinos in highly populated areas.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who approved the deal, called the proposed referendum “unfortunate” last week and said he hoped voters would block efforts to stop the project.

"It's unfortunate that tens of millions of dollars will now go to fight over this," he said.

The fight over the casino split Democrats in Sacramento and in Washington. Among those who weighed in against the compact was U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein, who in a letter to Brown last year, raised concerns that the deal could lead to an expansion of tribal gambling on land not currently owned by Indian tribes.

“This cannot be allowed to happen,” Feinstein wrote. “Enough is enough.”

If the referendum effort qualifies, it will be before voters in November 2014.

ALSO:

California Senate OKs casino deal

Casino plan in Central Valley spurs fight

Jerry Brown authorizes off-reservation casinos

anthony.york@latimes.com

@anthonyyorklat

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