Mono Indian Casino Controversy

March 12, 2008 8:38:00 PM PDT
The public is getting a chance to join the debate over plans to build a large casino in the north Valley.An important part of the struggle will be the impact on businesses and people. Most business owners support the casino, while a lot of other people, especially neighbors, are worried about traffic, pollution, crime, and several other issues.

Kathy and Joe Ridley escaped to this Madera County lot right next door to the proposed casino after another casino became their neighbor in northern California.

Kathy Ridley, Neighbor: "The crime rate went up, traffic, pollution, accidents."

An environmental impact study showed they're right to worry, but that each of the problems can be controlled.

Madera County's elected officials agree that the positive impact outweighs the negative.

Herman Perez, Former Madera Mayor: "We've got our golf course out there and with the casino project going in out there and with the shopping center going in, we've got a great opportunity to have something very beautiful in the city of Madera."

A River Park-style mall is planned east of Highway 99, with the casino going on the west side. Many business owners are already building in the area, anticipating extra business in the coming years. Established businesses along the freeway are also looking forward to new Native American neighbors.

Michael Leven/Mariposa Winery: "We're interested in having the business that we could generate by having their presence here."

Winery Manager Michael Leven doesn't know how much extra business the casino will bring him, but it could be a lot. The county expects $50 million dollars a year in new spending every year.

The tribe could pay up to $19 million dollars to help with traffic trouble. It's paying millions more to mitigate other issues, like crime and pollution.


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