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North Fork casino gets another OK

The North Fork tribal casino planned for land north of Madera off Avenue 17 west of SR 99 once more has received federal approval, this time from the Department of the Interior, according to Charles Banks-Altekruse, the tribe’s public affairs spokesman.

“Today, the department of the Interior issued secretarial procedures under which the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians may conduct Class III gaming on its land near the City of Madera,” he wrote in a memo Friday to County Supervisor Tom Wheeler.

“The issuance of secretarial procedures is a significant achievement and clears a major hurdle for the development of the tribe’s gaming facility,” Banks-Altekruse wrote. “The tribe is extremely excited about this achievement, and is appreciative of the Department of the Interior’s work on this issue.”

The tribe has faced lawsuits and even a public referendum challenging the compact it had with the state to build the casino.

Principal challengers locally have been the Chukchansi and Table Mountain casinos, which have filed lawsuits against the North Fork project and which provided the major financing to collect signatures for the initiative that challenged the compact.

While the initiative passed, it was quashed by a federal court, clearing the way for the casino to be built.

However lawsuits were filed, creating more delays, but those suits were thrown out of court. Banks-Altekruse said Friday’s development would not mean work on the new casino would necessarily start immediately.

“Although there is still work to be done and challenges to overcome, we are proud of our team’s perseverance and dedication in fulfilling the letter and spirit of the law throughout the process,” he wrote to Wheeler, who has been a strong supporter of the North Fork project.

“We look forward to resolving the remaining obstacles as quickly as possible and moving forward to build and operate a project that will be beneficial for our Tribe and our entire community,” Banks-Altekruse said.

“This is a great deal for Madera County and its citizens,” Wheeler said. “It’s a great day.”

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