The Tule River Tribe owns and operates the Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, California. Photo: Tamara Evans

Tule River Tribe moves forward with $180M casino at new location

The Tule River Tribe is inching forward with plans to relocate its casino to a new site in California.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs this week released the scoping report for the proposed move of the Eagle Mountain Casino, The Porterville Recorder reported. Of all the comments given in advance of the report, only two were negative, the paper said.

But the report is just a small step in what is anticipated to be a lengthy process. The BIA still has to issue a draft environmental impact statement and then a final EIS before making a decision on the $180 million casino.

If the BIA approves the project, the state gets a say because the tribe is pursuing the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That step could add another year to the timetable.

But there is still another hurdle. If the state agrees, the BIA has to make a decision on the tribe's land-into-trust application itself.

“We’re excited, but we know it’s going to be a long process,” Matt Mingrone, the general manager of the casino, told The Recorder.

Two-part determinations are extremely rare. Since IGRA became law in 1988, only eight tribes have completed both steps of the process.

Of those, only four casinos are in operation, with three tribes -- the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Kalispel Tribe in Washington in 1998 and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community -- having completed work before 2001. The fourth tribe, the Kaw Nation, gained final approval in 2014.

Two additional two-part determinations, both in California, are being held up in litigation. Those are for the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians

The Spokane Tribe is building its casino in Washington but that two-part determination decision is also being litigated.

Rounding out the last of the eight, the Shawnee Tribe is slated to break ground sometime this year after completing both steps of the two-part determination process.

Secretary Ryan Zinke, the new leader of the Department of the Interior, has ordered all off-reservation land-into-trust applications, whether for gaming purposes or not, to be reviewed by political appointees in Washington, D.C.

Read More on the Story:
Casino relocation process moving forward (The Porterville Recorder 5/11)

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