COARSEGOLD, Calif. (KFSN) --The Indian casino near Coarsegold reopened, amid protests, after being shut down for more than a year.
It was supposed to be a soft reopening, but when the casino opened at 10 a.m. on Thursday, the crowds surged in and it became a boom. The crowd headed for the 17-hundred machines and dozens of gaming tables that have been idle for more than a year following a fight between tribal factions and a federally ordered shutdown.
"This has been fantastic. From the minute go, we had a nice crowd waiting here when we opened, and business is being brisk, and everybody is happy, just everybody is having a great time and that is what we are here for," said Christian Goode, Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, CEO.
I'm so excited we have waited so long t reopen the casino, Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino is packed right now, it's just a joyous day for us and our community and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us," said Claudia Gonzales, Chairperson Picayune Rancheria.
But the reopening has not ended the divisions over who should be in charge of the tribe. Currently with nine hundred members, a group who was protesting outside the casino thinks the actual membership should be less than 50. They don't believe the current leadership is legal, even though it's been recognized by the Federal Government.
"There is still an inter-tribal dispute going on with the casino opening a lot of people disagree with it because they disagree with this so called illegal council that was elected by an illegal election," said Luke Davis, protester.
But while their challenges move through the courts the casino is open and the crowds are not paying much attention to the dispute.
Customers Action News talked to, like Janis Jones, were happy. "I won a little here and a little there, I had a great time."
"We have always felt like family here and its just a great place to come and play, and like I say you know, all families have issues," said Joseph Natale, casino customer.
"I won $300, man I am so happy this place has opened back up," said Tara Havner, casino customer.
The Chukchansi Casino is open 24 hours a day, and was much busier than many expected. All the gambling machines and tables are operating, the plan was to have limited food service today, but the crowds are so big they are scrambling to reopen more of the restaurants.