Chukchansi Casino is expanding beyond gaming

FRESNO, California

Everyday hundreds of travelers pass the /*Chukchansi Resort and Casino*/ on their way to and from /*Yosemite National Park*/. Some stop to gamble and grab a bite ... but soon ... travelers will be able to buy gas, smokes, and a sandwich.

Case Lawrence said, "Chukchansi crossing is unlike anything in the Valley. It's going to be a Native American fuel outlet. It's going to see gas at a scale and volume that's really unheard of here in the Valley."

Lawrence is the CEO of Mighty Oak Capital ... the manager of the Chukchansi Tribe's funds. He says the tribe is trying to diversify their economy. Because it doesn't have to pay state or local taxes it can sell gas 30 cents cheaper than any other gas station in the Valley.

There's no question cheap gas is good for consumers and the creation of jobs will be good for the local economy. But there's a lot of mom and pop businesses up the road who are very concerned about their future.

Chet Shah is just a stone's throw from the new development. He's the first gas station travelers see after the casino.

"That is going to hurt all over the 41 from Coarsegold to Oakhurst ... and people is going to go there first because their price is going to be cheap. There's no restrictions for them and they can do anything they want to," said Shah.

Alan Lohuis owns the Coarsegold Market. He's watched the casino go up. He's seen the housing market boom and then crash. He's weathered it all ... but this new development might be more than his small market can handle.

Alan Lohuis said, "As the economy is really hard right now. It's going to make things even tougher. That's basically the bottom line. It's just gonna be one more to compete for the smaller pie."

Indian tribes receive legal benefits like tax exemptions from the federal government so they can have a leg up in competing with local businesses. What remains to be seen is whether that advantage will end up hurting the local economy.

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