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Tribe Plans Casino Resort Near Yosemite 40-acre complex on Highway 41

14 June 2000

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – June 14, 2000 – As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: "That long, lonesome ride to Yosemite National Park could get mighty crowded soon -- with cars full of tourists with slot machines, not nature, on their minds. The Picayune Rancheria tribe of Chukchansi Indians plans to begin construction next month on a gigantic, $167 million casino and hotel resort just outside the park border.

"…It would be sure to draw notice, and thus probably a lot of business from the 2.2 million tourists and hikers every year who tool up Highway 41 to Yosemite and the surrounding forests. And that will be good or bad, depending on the viewpoint.

"On one hand, the tribe -- which like most, has never had much money -- intends to use income from the casino for badly needed housing, education and health care. But on the flip side, there is little legal requirement that the tribe ensure its casino does not become an eyesore or problem for the community.

"…`This project is a perfect example of how Proposition 1A failed to ensure the protection of the civil rights and the property rights of the citizens of California,' said Cheryl Schmit, co-director of the antigambling group Stand Up For California.

"Schmit has asked the state Department of Justice to look into the ownership status of the property, saying she believes the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs years ago did not give it the proper designation the tribe needs to build a casino. The Bureau of Indian Affairs disagrees, and the Justice Department is still considering her request.

"Since first floating the casino idea in 1998, Chukchansi leaders have presented their plans before several meetings of up to 100 residents of Coarsegold, a historic Gold Rush town that is an unincorporated area of Madera County. Some who attended -- the last big meeting was in April -- voiced fears over the crowds and noise the casino might bring, and the demand on the local water system, police and fire services.

"…`If this becomes a destination resort, I could see an economic benefit,' said Madera County Supervisor Gary Gilbert, who represents the Coarsegold area. `But we'll have to see. We have a lot of questions.'''

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