Armed standoff between rival factions closes tribal casino

No, it’s not mobsters battling for control of an illegal gambling casino in the Roaring Twenties, it is today’s Indian casino business in California. The AP reports:

A federal judge closed a Central California casino after an armed showdown between tribal factions caused many gamblers to flee with chips left on the tables.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill, acting on an emergency request by the state attorney general, set no date for the possible reopening of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold, about 40 miles north of Fresno, The Fresno Bee reported. He scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.

Utterly bizarre. What did the “factions” plan to do with the parts of the casino they controlled? Is there fraud going on and skimming taking place? 

The gaming commission had said it would close the casino if the tribe failed to provide audits and other financial documents by Oct. 27. One audit is 18 months overdue.

Vernon King, treasurer for the tribal council led by the faction that was ousted from the casino, said his group wanted to recover audit information and avoid a shutdown later this month. The casino, he said, employs 1,000 to 1,500 people and provides an average of around $450 a month to each of about 900 tribal members.

Rob Rosette, a lawyer for the group that has controlled the casino since August, said the other faction refused offers to negotiate for several months.

I have always found the proliferation of Indian casinos troubling. Yes, Native Americans have gotten a raw deal and remained mired in poverty in many places. But is this the best way to handle it? In some places I am familiar with, a huge bonanza is split up among comparatively recently-recognized “tribes” composed of people with relatively few native ancestors in their lineage that staked out locations near prime urban markets. Some members of these “tribes” get hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, doing absolutely nothing for other Native Americans located on reservations too far away from cities to be able to take advantage of the casino industry.

There has got to be a better way.