April 16, 2009
CHICO - The Mechoopda tribe won a major decision last week in federal court that advances their plans to build an Indian casino on 645 acres of land along Highway 149 near Chico. The suit was filed in US District Court by Butte County in an attempt to overturn federal approval for the casino. The Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) had previously approved the tribe's application to transfer their land into federal trust. That process grants tribal sovereignty to the land and is a prerequisite for Indian gaming.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act permits gaming on land which meets the definition of "Indian lands" or "restored lands." Butte County argued the approvals were unlawful because the proposed site did not meet the definition of "restored lands", the term under which the approvals were granted.
However, the federal judge upheld the agency approvals stating "they considered the relevant factors and articulated a rational connection between the administrative record and their conclusions." Butte County now has 60 days to appeal the ruling
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