Gov. Brown approves North Fork's Madera casino

Artist's rendering of a casino planned north of Madera by the North Fork Rancheria.Artist's rendering of a casino planned north of Madera by the North Fork Rancheria.Gov. Jerry Brown has approved a controversial off-reservation casino in Madera on behalf of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.

The announcement paves the way for a casino with 2,000 slot machines as well as a resort hotel and other facilities north of Madera along Highway 99. 

The North Fork Rancheria says the project will generate up to 4,500 jobs, $100 million in annual economic activity and $5 million in annual funding for Madera County.

Opponents of the project, including operators of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino in Coarsegold, have criticized the plans to build a casino off of the North Fork's tribal land in the Madera foothills.

Brown's announcements include a tribal-state gaming compact and a concurrence with the federal Department of the Interior to place the 305-acre site in trust for the tribe.

In a letter to the Interior Department, Brown wrote "The gaming facility is supported by both Madera County and the City of Madera, and the regional gaming market can support the project along with existing gaming facilities."

As part of the measures laid out in the state-tribal gaming compact to mitigate economic impact to the Chukchansi tribe, North Fork cannot operate its hotel until July 1, 2018. North Fork must also pay part of its slot machines' net winnings to the Chukchansi tribe — from 2.5 percent for annual net winnings $100 million or less up to 3.5 percent for winnings of more than $200 million.

Part of casino revenues will also benefit Northern California's Wiyot Tribe, which will forego gaming on its trust land along Humboldt Bay.

 “We thank Governor Brown for his wisdom and courage in making this decision. We always believed he shared our Tribe’s goal of bringing jobs, economic opportunity and community investment to our region and state,” said Elaine Bethel-Fink, Tribal Chair of the North Fork Rancheria, in a statement.