California Proposition 48: Indian Gaming Compacts Nov. 2014

The Question

Should the tribal gaming compacts negotiated by Governor Brown with the North Fork and Wiyot Tribes and ratified by legislative statute be allowed to go into effect?

The Situation

In 2000, voters amended the state Constitution to allow Indian tribes to open casinos on Indian land, if the tribe and the Governor agree on a compact, and the Legislature and the federal government approve the compact. 

In 2012, Governor Brown negotiated an agreement with the North Fork Rancheria of the Mono Tribe. The state Legislature approved, and the federal government accepted, this compact, which allows the tribe to acquire tribal land in Madera County, approximately 38 miles from the tribe’s reservation, and to build a casino and hotel on it.

Federal law usually prohibits tribes from building casinos on tribal land acquired after 1988; however, an exception can be approved if the acquisition of new land can be shown to be in the tribe’s best interest and not harmful to the surrounding community. The Bureau of Indian Affairs affirmed that this was the case for the North Fork casino plan, as the tribe’s preexisting holdings are not sufficiently large to allow for a casino and hotel, and they are located in a remote area in the Sierra National Forest.

The compact with the Wiyot Tribe, also covered by this statute, prohibits the tribe from opening a casino on tribal lands in Humboldt County, instead providing them a share of the North Fork casino’s profits.

The Proposal

Prop. 48 is a referendum that asks the voters to approve or reject the gaming compacts with the North Fork and Wiyot tribes. A YES vote approves the legislative statute that ratifies the compacts, and allows the compacts to go into effect; a NO vote rejects the statute and voids the compacts.

Fiscal Effect

The tribe would make annual payments to the state and local governments to offset their costs arising from the existence of the new casino, which would probably average about $1.5 million annually over the 20-year period of the compact.

Madera County and city would likely receive between $16 million and $35 million in one-time payments from the tribe for specified services, and would receive about $5 million in annual payments over the life of the compact, once the casino opens. Other local governments in the area could receive $3.5 million annually over the life of the compact.

There may be increased revenue from economic growth in the Madera County area, generally offset by revenue losses from decreased economic activity in surrounding counties.

A YES Vote Means

A YES vote on this measure means: The state’s compacts with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe would go into effect. As a result, North Fork would be able to construct and operate a new casino in Madera County and would be required to make various payments to state and local governments, Wiyot, and other tribes.

A NO Vote Means

A NO vote on this measure means: The state’s compacts with North Fork and Wiyot would not go into effect. As a result, neither tribe could begin gaming unless new compacts were approved by the state and federal governments.

Supporters Say

  • The North Fork casino has local support and would create over 4,000 jobs.
  • The casino would bring revenue to Madera County and to the state of California.
  • The location of the casino is supported by local, state, and federal officials.

Vote Yes 48 Campaign:

Opponents Say

  • These compacts break the promise that Indian casinos would only be located on original reservation land.
  • Rather than creating jobs, the casino would take jobs and resources from nearby areas.
  • The door would be opened to an avalanche of new off-reservation casinos.…

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