Jerry Brown authorizes California’s first off-reservation tribal casinos


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Gov. Jerry Brown approved a plan for two tribes to open casinos away from their ancestral lands, a move that he said would create jobs and help local communities. But critics say the plan could lead to a massive expansion of gambling in California.

In a statement Friday, Brown announced his administration agreed with an earlier ruling from the federal Department of the Interior granting the right of two Northern California tribes -- the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians to open a casino in Madera County and the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria near Yuba City -- to each open 2,000-slot-machine casinos near state highways.


Critics of the plans said Brown had opened the door to a massive expansion of tribal casinos that could lead to new game rooms being opened in or near urban areas across the state.

“These decisions change the face of tribal gaming as we know it in California,” said David Quintana, political director of the California Tribal Business Alliance, which represents a number of casino-owning tribes. “They will create a new ‘gold rush’ as investors scramble to move tribes to the most profitable markets with many financially-strapped municipalities that will welcome them with open arms. If history taught us anything, it’s that gold rushes never benefit California’s tribes.”

Brown refuted those charges in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, noting that the planned casinos comport with local zoning laws and were warranted because of circumstances unique to these two tribes. “I expect there will be few requests from other tribes that will present the same kind of exceptional circumstances to support a similar expansion of tribal gaming land,” the governor wrote.

The compacts authorizing the new casinos are still subject to legislative ratification when lawmakers convene after the November elections.


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--Anthony York in Sacramento