A California casino in the middle of a contentious internal power struggle between a handful of tribal groups has been ordered by a federal judge to remain closed after the conflict turned into an armed confrontation.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill issued the ruling, forcing the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino to remain closed after the state attorney general and the National Indian Gaming Commission first shut it down last October 10.
Judge O’Neill cited a recent confrontation that saw an armed faction from the McDonald group storm the casino to reportedly secure financial records to complete overdue audits that needed to be filed with the federal government. The intrusion caused a massive panic inside the casino with gamblers scampering away, leaving a lot of chips on the tables.
According to the Fresno Bee, the missing 2012 and 2013 audits for the casino hadn’t been filed when the confrontation occurred. The National Indian Gaming Commission issued an ultimatum to the establishment to file the audits or face the threat of temporary closure on October 27 if the audits weren’t handed in time. NIGC acting Chief of Staff Christinia Thomas said that the agency had received the audits and goes through the tribe’s paperwork before recommending the next course of action to the commission’s general council and acting Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri.
The McDonalds faction has repeatedly defended that its armed incursion inside the casino was a necessary and lawful action with the intent of evicting members of the Lewis-Ayala faction and its “mercenary private security service”. But Judge O’Neill reprimanded the group, admonishing its aggressive tactics as “the worst sort of street justice” and labelling them the faction that “continues to be the threat to public safety”.
The casino will remain closed. “The explosive keg that was present emotionally the day before the incident is present now,” O’Neill said before issuing his ruling.
No one was seriously injured during the incident but fears that something of that sort happens again if the casino re-opened compelled the judge to keep it closed until the issues among tribal leaders controlling the casino are resolved.
This is the first time that state officials have closed a tribe’s casino and it’s going to remain that way unless there’s legitimate progress in the discussions among the tribe’s involved. Three of the tribe’s factions told O’Neill that there have been settlement talks but little progress has been made from those discussions.