2 casino tribes suing to stop Enterprise Rancheria
Both the complaints filed to stop land for Enterprise Rancheria in Yuba County being taken into trust have similar reasons for why the action should be stopped. Among them:
• The decision by the US Department of the Interior to allow the casino to proceed didn’t take into account concerns by neighboring tribes and how they’d be affected, as required by law.
• Approving the project away from where the Estom Yumeka Maidu are already established sets a bad precedent for “off-reservation gaming” to spread.
• Opening Enterprise Rancheria will harm the fortunes of two casinos operated by the tribes that filed the complaints, as well as their surrounding communities.
• The federal government relied on a third-party consultant working with the Estom Yumeka Maidu to answer questions raised in an Environmental Impact Statement on Enterprise Rancheria, rather than answering the questions in house, as required by law.
WHAT HAPPENED: Two tribes running two casinos, Colusa Casino near Colusa and Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln, have filed separate legal complaints in federal court seeking to stop land for Enterprise Rancheria in Yuba County from being taken into trust for a casino.
WHAT’S NEXT: The federal Department of the Interior can take the land into trust as of Jan. 2; representatives for both complaints said they’ll request a hearing for a stay or injunction if such action is taken.
The tribes operating the Colusa Casino and Thunder Valley Casino have filed legal complaints in federal court to stop land being taken into trust for the Enterprise Rancheria casino project in Yuba County.
Filed Friday in US District Court, Eastern District of California, the suit by the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians states allowing the casino to move forward would violate federal law and cut Colusa Casino’s revenues in half.
“The decline in revenue will lead to massive layoffs and declines in tribal governmental and tribal member incomes,” the suit states. “It will also lead to a diminishment of services provided by the tribal, city, and county governments to their citizens' health, welfare, and education.”
George Forman, an attorney with the San Rafael-based law firm representing Cachil Dehe, said a required Environmental Impact Statement for Enterprise Rancheria didn’t take those concerns into account.
“The Department of the Interior has to go through the process of consulting with local governments and local Indian tribes,” said Forman, of Forman & Associates. “Colusa was never consulted at all.”
The United Auburn Indian Community filed a complaint with similar language last Wednesday in US District Court in Washington, DC.
Doug Elmets, a spokesman for the UAIC, said because Enterprise Rancheria would be on land away from other land already taken into trust by the Estom Yumeka Maidu, it constitutes “off-reservation gaming.”
“It’s not as much about competition as much as tribes playing by the same rules,” he said.
But Charles Altekruse, a spokesman for Enterprise Rancheria, said the complaints are last-ditch efforts with a low chance of success.
“Lawsuits filed by those opposed to development or competition are not uncommon,” he said. “They often represent a formality that rarely succeeds.”
But if they delay Enterprise Rancheria from moving forward, he said, they would also delay economic benefits for the surrounding area, estimated at as much as $700,000 a day.
Both complaints seek to stop the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, a subagency of the Department of the Interior, from allowing the land to be taken into trust. Federal officials filed a 30-day notice on Dec. 3 of their intent to allow that move to take place early next month.
Forman said he believes other complaints could be filed. And both he and Elmets said they could request a hearing for a stay, or injunction, if it appears the federal government will act soon.