Central Valley

Governor reaches casino deal with tribe over Highway 99 casino

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Schwarzenegger has reached a deal with Madera County's North Fork tribe for what would be the state's first off-reservation casino on 305 acres along Highway 99. The gaming compact announced Monday gives the governor's stamp of approval to a proposed 2,500-slot machine casino just north of Madera, miles from the tribe's traditional home in the Sierra foothills.

The deal still must be approved by the Legislature. The tribe also must get the land put into federal trust, a process that could still take many months.

Under the deal, the North Fork Rancheria would share revenues from the casino with the Wiyot tribe of Northern California, which has agreed to forgo its right to game on tribal lands along Humbolt Bay.

"These compacts are a model for protecting the environment and balancing the needs of the tribes and local communities," the governor said in a statement. "The compacts avoid construction of a casino along California's coast and in the Sierra foothills while respecting both tribes' sovereign right to pursue economic development through gaming and other means."

The deal is likely to face stiff opposition from Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. He recently introduced a bill to preclude the governor from negotiating deals until a tribe has federally qualified land.

The compact calls for the tribe to share 13.5% to 22% of "net win" profits from slot machines and banked card games. The governor estimated the state would get $25 million annually.