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A major new Indian gaming casino and hotel will be built adjacent to Highway 99 near Madera, North Fork tribal officials said Monday, following a decision by the California Supreme Court.

“We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor,” said North Fork Rancheria Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink in a news release. “Our tribal citizens and local community have been denied the advantages of tribal gaming — billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs — for far too long.”

Lawsuit Sought to Invalidate Casino Approval

The court case centered on state approvals for the casino project by Gov. Gavin Newsom and his predecessor, Jerry Brown. Both governors concurred with a federal decision in 2011 allowing plans for two “off reservation” casinos to move forward, including the Madera County project developed by the North Fork Mono Indian Tribe.

The Auburn Rancheria sued to invalidate the approvals, arguing the state Constitution required legislative authorization. But in Monday’s 5-2 opinion, the state Supreme Court said Newsom and Brown had the necessary authority to OK the casinos.

“The decision will allow the North Fork Rancheria to move forward with the design, financing, and construction of its long-awaited and highly anticipated project north of the city of Madera,” the news release said.

An artist rendering of North Fork Rancheria’s planned casino project to be built adjacent to Highway 99 near Madera. The gaming development, originally proposed in 2003, could house 2,000 slot machines and 40 game tables. Plans also call for a 200-room hotel. (North Fork Rancheria)

Tribe’s Casino Plans Also Include 200 Room Hotel

The new casino, on 305 acres adjacent to Highway 99 at Avenue 17, is projected to house 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games, and a 200-room hotel. The tribe entered an agreement in 2003 with Las Vegas-based Station Casinos to build and manage the gaming complex.

The project received federal approval in 2011 followed by Gov. Brown’s concurrence in 2012. After a series of legal challenges, the state Supreme Court agreed to take the case in 2017.

Despite the three-and-a-half-year wait for a final decision, “we are nonetheless delighted to have this long drawn out drama finally behind us — and eager to get going and bring jobs and economic opportunity to our people and community,” Bethel-Fink said.

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