Timing of Chukchansi Casino re-opening still up in the air

COARSEGOLD, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nobody has any firm answers, only hopes. While casino management had hoped to open this month, the federal government says no way, and a tribal election set for next month may just fuel the conflict between rival factions of the Chukchansi Tribe.

About 150 people are inside the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, working to get it reopened this month. But tribal chairman Reggie Lewis was advised that won't happen. "Its just another little setback and I'd like to consider it a minor setback, because we will be pushing forward trying to get it open," said Lewis.

In a written statement to Action News, the National Indian Gaming Commission said the tribe must get its political house in order before the casino can reopen. The statement reads: "Government stability is one of the significant factors in our decision process, as government stability and gaming integrity go hand-in-hand. We are optimistic about upcoming elections."

A tribal election is set for October 3rd. But Monica Davis, chair of a rival tribal council says the upcoming election doesn't follow the rules of the tribal constitution. "There's no way of determining who the qualified voters are, addresses are completely messed up they have no enrollment information," said Davis.

There are more than 30 candidates on the ballot for the council seats. Even Lewis acknowledges the vote is not likely to solve the tribe's issues. "I don't think it will settle anything, I think things will just continue on, internally the same thing they've been for a long time in the tribe because there's a lot of issues that need to be settled that don't have anything to do with the election."

For Davis, the key to solving the issues is to figuring out who's in the tribe. "That's kind of the hinge of the dispute is who are the members of the Chukchansi tribe. "

Both Davis and Lewis agree the tribes constitution needs to be changed. But in the meantime, Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler says the shutdown is hurting the local economy. "A thousand jobs and 900 of their citizens not getting any money, so that affects all of our little businesses. So we figure that's another thousand people and they aren't getting any money so it's a big hit on Madera County," said Wheeler.

Lewis believes financial pressures will ultimately get everyone to come together and figure out a way to reopen, even if not everybody's happy. "We all know that it eventually will open because too many people are dependent on the money that the casino generates to keep it shutdown." null
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