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California tribe remains optimistic for new casino despite setbacks

In California, the Big Sandy Rancheria Of Mono Indians is not giving up on its decade-long dream of building a new casino near the small town of Friant despite failing in a recent attempt to have an off-reservation parcel of land brought into its tribal boundaries.

California tribe remains optimistic for new casino despite setbacks

According to a report from The Fresno Bee, the tribe, which already operates the 349-slot Mono Wind Casino near Auberry, wants to spend at least $100 million to build a 221-room hotel resort complete with a 70,000 sq ft casino offering some 2,000 slots and up to 40 table games. However, the proposed 41-acre site for the development is located about twelve miles from its reservation and only around 2,600 feet from the existing Table Mountain Casino operated by the Table Mountain Rancheria.

Earlier this year, the Interior Board Of Indian Appeals opposed the effort by the Big Sandy Rancheria Of Mono Indians to bring the parcel into its 228-acre reservation despite a ruling that such a move would not be considered an “off-reservation” project because the land is owned by a tribal member that is willing to sell or lease. The ruling followed similar denials from the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Bureau Of Indian Affairs over jurisdictional and environmental documentation concerns.

But, the Fresno County tribe is remaining optimistic and revealed that it is exploring other options for bringing the parcel into its boundaries and opening another casino.

“It is not dead,” Elizabeth Kipp, Councilwoman for the Big Sandy Rancheria Of Mono Indians, told the newspaper.

For its part, the Table Mountain Rancheria has consistently opposed the proposed development of a new casino so close to its venue on grounds that the planned site is archaeologically sensitive and doesn’t have access to a water supply. To overcome this second issue, the Big Sandy Rancheria Of Mono Indians had hoped to transport water from the Flyin’ J Ranch north of Auberry but this scheme was short-circuited when its rival tribe purchased the 190-acre site in a foreclosure sale for $2.2 million.

Kipp told the newspaper that the purchase of the Flyin’ J Ranch by the Table Mountain Rancheria was something “we had no control over”.

“We have other plans for [a] water source,” said Kipp.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the Big Sandy Rancheria Of Mono Indians is also now involved in a lawsuit brought by a developer that claims the tribe has not fully paid back loans it advanced relating to the hoped-for casino. Known as Brownstone, the plaintiff initiated the action in the US District Court For The Central District Of California in Los Angeles and claims the tribe has only paid back $482,301 of the just over $1.05 million it owes as a result of a series of deals going back to 2007.