The U.S. Department of the Interior decided not to approve class III gaming compacts with two California tribes — the Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria and the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians — claiming that they violated portions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
State-tribal class III gaming compacts “are agreements between the state and separate tribal governments” that specify how many gaming devices and casinos a single tribe can operate, according to the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations.
According to rejection letters sent to the tribes and the state, both tribes were described as planning a “casino resort complex” — meaning restaurants and hotels that operate beyond the gaming spaces regulated by the Tribe’s Gaming Commission. Taking issue with several definitions in the compacts, the feds wrote that “the 2022 Compact confers expansive powers on the state and local governments to regulate the tribe’s activities and lands that are not directly related to the actual conduct of gaming.”
The Santa Rosa Rancheria had planned to expand the gaming space in their Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, Calif. by 44,000 square feet, as well as build a 12-room hotel tower, a bingo hall/conference center and a three-level garage. The Middletown Rancheria had hoped to buttress the slot machines, blackjack and poker offered at their Twin Pine Casino & Hotel in Middletown, Calif. with other table games including roulette and craps.
Newsom Slams Decision
California Gov. Gavin Newsom strongly rebuked the feds’ decision, warning of its repercussions. He said in a statement that the disapprovals “threaten the ability of these and other tribes to invest and maintain jobs in many of California’s economically disadvantaged communities.” He noted that the compacts were “carefully negotiated by the state and the tribes in compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act” to give tribes the “economic benefits of gaming while mitigating impacts to local communities.” And he noted that this latest agreement came on top of existing compacts signed between the tribes and the state in 1999.
This is the second time the Interior Department has disapproved of compacts with the same tribes, following a similar decision in November 2021.
California has ratified gaming compacts with 75 tribes, and currently hosts 66 casinos operated by 63 tribes, according to the California Gambling Control Commission.
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