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Federal Judge Rules in Favor of North Fork Casino in Madera, Calif.

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The North Fork Rancheria cleared a huge hurdle last week in its ongoing attempt to open a casino a few miles north of Madera, California. In a 170-page decision, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell dismissed a legal challenge against the proposed casino by Stand Up for California!, Madera County church-related groups in the county, and the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, which owns the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino on reservation lands about 30 miles from the Madera County site. The legal arguments she rejected Tuesday were originally filed in 2012, reported fresnobee.com.

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For years, these casino opponents have raised a myriad of arguments against the project, beginning in 2005 when the North Fork Rancheria formally applied to have the Madera County land taken into trust. In 2011 the Interior Department approved the North Fork tribe's request. Among The the attempts to derail the North Fork project, the Picayune claimed that the tribe lacked a historical connection to the Madera site. But Howell eschewed that charge based on the tribe's 1851 treaty.

"While the plaintiffs’ many concerns about the impending casino development are understandable, the law is not on their side," Howell wrote.

Howell said the casino would "undoubtedly" impact the county and hopefully economically benefit the tribe, creating jobs and educational opportunities for an increasing tribal population, as well as helping the tribe to provide critically needed social services. The gaming facility would be substantial in size on a 305-acre parcel, equipped with 2,500 gaming machines, six bars, three restaurants, a food court, a 200-room hotel tower, and 4,500 parking spaces.