Enterprise Rancheria wins ruling in casino land-into-trust case

The Enterprise Rancheria plans to build a gaming facility at this site along Forty Mile Road south of Yuba City. Image from Google Maps

The Enterprise Rancheria won a big court victory last Thursday as it moves forward with an off-reservation casino in northern California.

Two tribes with existing casinos accused the Bureau of Indian Affairs of failing to consult them about the new development in Yuba County. But Judge Troy L. Nunley determined that the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians, also known as the Colusa Indian Community, doesn't fall within a 25-mile radius of the site so consultation wasn't required.

The United Auburn Indian Community was consulted but the tribe argued that its concerns were ignored when the BIA approved the Enterprise Rancheria's application under the two-part determination provisions of theIndian Gaming Regulatory Act. But Nunley said there was no evidence to support that claim.

"The record reflects that Plaintiff UAIC’s comments were given ample consideration," Nunley wrote in the 33-page decision.

The Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California, is about 23 miles from the Enterprise Rancheria gaming site. Photo by Jon Wilhite / Facebook

The Auburn Community also claimed that the BIA was wrong when it concluded that the new development would not have a "detrimental" impact on the surrounding community, including the Thunder Valley Casino. The two gaming sites are about 23 miles apart.

Nunley, though, deferred to the BIA's reasoning. He acknowledged that any new casino might have negative impacts but he said blocking the Enterprise Rancheria on that factor alone "would conflict with the overall intent of the IGRA."

"The court notes that competition alone from the proposed gaming facility in an overlapping gaming market is not sufficient to conclude that it would result in a detrimental impact on UAIC," the decision stated.

Finally, Nunley rejected a series of arguments based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling states that the BIA can place land in trust only for those tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934.

The site plan for a permanent Class II gaming facility along Forty Mile Road in Yuba County, California, was filed in federal court. Image from Enterprise Rancheria

The Enterprise Rancheria clearly meets the test because the BIA oversaw an election for the tribe pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act in 1935, the judge determined.

"Following this practice, the fact that a Section 18 election was held here indicates that Enterprise was under federal jurisdiction," Nunley wrote.

The decision comes as the tribe moves forward with a Class II facility on the site that the BIA placed in trust in December 2012, the same month the lawsuit was filed. Plans call for a 105,750 square-foot building -- a much smaller development than the Class III casino that was originally proposed under the two-part determination application.

The tribe's Class III gaming compact, though, was never approved by the California Legislature amid opposition from rivals like the Auburn Community and the Cachil Dehe Band.

Get the Story:
Judge rejects Rancheria casino challenges (The Marysville / Yuba City Appeal-Democrat 9/26)

Also Today:
Patrick Sullivan: Enterprise Rancheria Ready to Construct Class II Casino (The National Law Journal 9/27)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Documents:
Press Release | Fact Sheet | Two-Part Determination Letter

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions; Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California (December 3, 2012)

Related Stories
Enterprise Rancheria defends plans for Class II gaming facility (09/16)
Editorial: Enterprise Rancheria makes big change in casino bid (9/14)
Enterprise Rancheria pledges to live up to gaming agreements (9/10)
Enterprise Rancheria to pursue permanent off-reservation casino (9/8)
Enterprise Rancheria won't see tribal opposition at Class II site (07/15)
Editorial: Enterprise Rancheria fails to share details on gaming (7/14)
Enterprise Rancheria still hopes to open Class III gaming facility (7/13)
Enterprise Rancheria won't face local opposition to Class II casino (7/9)
Enterprise Rancheria to break ground on Class II gaming facility (06/19)
Off-reservation gaming dead in tracks after California election (04/06)

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