Re-opening of California Casino Now in Disarray

A cascading series of developments, including a walkout of the gaming commission, led by Norm DesRosiers (l.), a former NIGC commissioner, has put on the backburner any plans to reopen the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Northern California.

The reopening of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Northern California has been postponed, perhaps for a long time, because of the resignation of all three of the tribe’s gaming commissioners.

The three commissioners and the commission’s executive director all resigned before the weekend last week. This came in the wake of delays in the reopening by the troubled Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, which had originally wanted to reopen the doors for the Labor Day weekend.

Suddenly recruiting a new commission was job one. Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis told the Fresno Bee: “We have to get that taken care of. Without a gaming commission in place, we can’t open the casino.”

The casino will have been closed a year on October 10, anniversary of an armed raid by a faction of the casino that was attempting to seize financial records that had been demanded by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

When the casino was shut by the order of state and federal governments, more than 1,000 workers were sent to the unemployment rolls.

In recent weeks the tribe’s debt holders had reached an agreement to come up with $35 million more to finance opening the doors. Now the resignation of the entire commission has set the process back by an unknown amount of time.

Members of the gaming commission, led by Norm DesRosiers, a former NIGC commissioner, were not members of the tribe, but were disinterested parties hired to ensure the integrity of the games.

In their resignation letters the commissioners accused the tribe of trying to usurp their authority and in allowing tribal politics to infiltrate the gaming process that they were charged with enforcing.

Then last week the NIGC sent the tribe notification that it is not in compliance with rules that would allow it to reopen. The NIGC wrote that the tribe’s “willingness to violate its own tribal gaming laws while negotiating the settlement of existing NIGC enforcement actions is alarming.”

Last week the NIGC noted that so far the tribe has not responded to its concerns.

Spokesman Michael Odle commented, “From day one, we have been clear that the integrity of the gaming operation is paramount and the lack of an independent gaming regulatory authority most certainly would impact the integrity of the gaming operation.”

The NIGC had previously told the tribe that it would not allow the casino to reopen until after tribal elections scheduled for October 3. At that time the NIGC wrote, “Government stability is one of the significant factors in our decision process, as government stability and gaming integrity go hand-in-hand. We are optimistic about upcoming elections.”

That’s more confidence than one of the feuding factional leaders. Monica Davis, who claims to head the tribe, has. She told 30 Action News, “There’s no way of determining who the qualified voters are, addresses are completely messed up they have no enrollment information.”

Chairman Lewis is himself not confident that the election will solve much. “I don’t think it will settle anything, I think things will just continue on, internally the same thing they’ve been for a long time in the tribe because there’s a lot of issues that need to be settled that don’t have anything to do with the election.”

Lewis and Davis would like to change the tribal constitution to make it easier to elect a workable council.