It is the question every Chukchansi casino patron has been asking for over a year: When will it reopen?
New Year’s Eve is the day. After being closed for nearly 15 months, the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino will reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday with about 1,700 slot machines and up to 25 table games. The resort is on Highway 41 and Lucky Lane, about 2 miles south of the town of Coarsegold.
The resort was closed by state and federal officials following an Oct. 9, 2014, casino office raid by members of the Tex McDonald faction, whose tribal police officers were under directions to seize documents related to two years of audits that were not filed by casino and tribal officials. After the raid, members of the security team from the Reggie Lewis-Nancy Ayala faction pulled a fire alarm and the resort was evacuated.
The business side:
After several months of negotiations with Madera County, the state attorney general and the National Indian Gaming Commission, tribal officials reached agreement last week to reopen Chukchansi Gold. A U.S. District Court judge affirmed the opening. About 850 employees have returned to work. By mid-January, the resort will have about 1,000 employees. The seven eating establishments will reopen. The hotel will open with about 220 rooms this weekend. More than 400 more will open in the next several weeks.
Eastern Madera County benefits from Chukchansi Gold’s $32 million annual payroll, products bought from local vendors and $1 million in annual donations to local nonprofits. Christian Goode, Chukchansi Gold’s chief operating officer, said the casino will meet all its donor commitments in the coming weeks.
Who are those protesters:
Demonstrators at the corner of Highway 41 and Lucky Lane are carrying signs opposing the reopening or citing government corruption. They represent members of two factions that oppose the tribal council elected in October. The “distributees” have a tribal council composed of members of the two original tribal families. They say the election was illegal and oppose the federal government’s recognition of the existing tribal council. The other faction is the group once led by Tex McDonald. That faction’s leader is now Monica Davis. Their group still says its council is the rightful leadership of the tribe and also doesn’t recognize the results of the October election. Both groups are considering legal avenues to overturn the federal government’s recognition of the tribal council.
What others say:
“We have been supportive of Chukchansi because we want to see their programs reinitiated for their elders and health care for their members,” said Dan Casas, tribal lawyer for Table Mountain Rancheria in Friant. “It will be good to see them get back on track to self-sufficiency; it’s a positive development for Indian country.”