Opponents of a proposed casino in Madera County failed Tuesday to convince a Washington, D.C.-based federal judge to block the project with a temporary injunction.
But the legal fight will continue, in the nation’s capital rather than California. That part, at least, represented a bit of a victory for the group Stand Up for California! The organization had sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. while the Justice Department had tried to get the case moved out to California.
In a 53-page decision, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell declined to issue the injunction that Stand Up for California! sought against the casino proposed by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The challengers argue that then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar failed to account for a host of detrimental impacts, from crime to water use and loss of cropland, but Howell said the decision-making appeared sound, at least so far.
“The secretary appears to have considered all aspects of the problem that he was required to consider under the (law), and this court must confer significant deference to the secretary’s expertise,” Howell wrote.
Stand Up’s lawsuit is challenging the Interior Department’s approvals for the 305-acre project, to be located adjacent to Route 99 just outside the northwest border of the city of Madera.
Howell pointed out that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act “does not require that a new gaming development be completely devoid of any negative impacts.” Rather, Howell said, the law requires that the Interior Department determine that “a gaming establishment on newly acquired lands . . . would not be detrimental to the surrounding community.”
Howell further concluded that it was “rational” for the Interior Department to reject other, proposed site alternatives.
“Absent a preliminary injunction, the transfer of the trust lands will occur on February 1, 2013, and the North Fork Tribe will continue on its odyssey to make its long-awaited gaming complex a reality. Yet, none of the tangible harms identified by the plaintiffs (e.g., traffic congestion, increased crime, problem gambling, environmental effects) would be remotely likely to occur for some time,” Howell reasoned.
The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, which operates the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, is also challenging the North Fork proposal.