The Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino in Coarsegold, California has been shut down after a violent altercation between two tribal factions vying for control over the casino and was now being guarded by sheriff’s deputies.
The incident arose on Thursday 9 October 2014 after the National Indian Gaming Commission (NAIC) announced that they would close the casino if required audits and other financial documents were not provided to the agency by 27 October 2014.
The standoff prompted both the NAIC and state attorney general to order the closure of the casino and hotel as the Chukchansi tribe had violated terms of its state compact, part of which requires that gambling operations not endanger the “public health, safety, or welfare” of patrons.
The two tribal factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians have been at loggerheads for years but the animosity intensified when the faction led by Co-Chairperson Reggie Lewis forcibly seized the casino in August, relegating the faction led by Co-Chairman Tex McDonald to a nearby tribal business centre.
Speaking to ABC 30 Action News, Charles Ettner an American Indian Studies professor said that “a unification council formed after a takeover in August hasn’t halted intertribal disputes at Chukchansi. The factions now had control of different parts of the tribe.”
Ettner went on to say that Tex McDonald’s group were now in charge of the casino whilest Lewis’ group were in charge of Chukchansi’s other business ventures.
In reaction to the NAIC ultimatum the McDonald faction entered the casino in pursuit of the audits and financial documentation in an attempt to prevent the casino from being closed. What followed was described as an offensive act wherein security guards were allegedly assaulted, handcuffed and detained by the McDonald faction resulting in federal involvement taking place and the evacuation of patrons.
According to the McDonald faction, the seizure in August was prompted by the Lewis faction trying to stop the submission of the audits – that subsequently went missing after the Lewis faction successfully seized the casino.
Both sides were cited saying that they were eager to reopen the casino as casino profits that were used to fund the tribe were being lost, not to mention that 100 employees were now without income. It was estimated by the tribe that for every day the casino’s doors remained closed an amount ranging between 1-2 million dollars was lost.
The Lewis faction told Action News that they were preparing to submit the missing audits to the NIGC before the deadline at the end of this month.
The earliest the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino could open was 14 October, when both sides would see a federal judge to argue why they should have control over the casino.