Business & Real Estate

Brown signs gambling agreement for Amador tribe

Gov. Jerry Brown has boosted the casino development efforts of a tiny Amador County tribe by signing an updated gambling agreement for a casino proposed near the town of Ione.

Amador County officials have waged a decade-plus legal battle to stop the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians from building a casino on a 67.5-acre property off Coal Mine Road, south of Highway 88.

Brown’s announcement of an amended compact with the tribe on Wednesday follows a federal ruling in favor of the tribe’s casino aspirations. On March 16, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein in Washington, D.C., rejected the county’s legal argument that the Buena Vista property wasn’t a legal reservation for a gambling development.

In 2008, after 2 1/2 years of litigation, the Buena Vista Rancheria agreed to a proposed pact with Amador County. The tribe promised to pay the county a lump sum of $18 million, plus a $8 million a year to offset the impacts the casino development, including costs of law enforcement.

The county later refused to sign off on the deal, which also restricted the tribe to 950 slot machines. While the county continued legal challenges, an arbitrator upheld the terms of the proposed agreement.

The compact announced by Brown stands to allow the Buena Vista tribe to operate a casino with a maximum of 2,000 slot machines. However, the additional slots would depend on the tribe negotiating an agreement with the county for an expanded casino.

The rural county of 38,000 residents is already home to the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, and officials and residents have vociferously fought additional casinos.

The county has also waged a long-running legal challenge against efforts by the Ione Band of Miwok Indians to develop a major gambling resort near Highway 49 and the town of Plymouth.

Brown also announced a revised agreement Wednesday with the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, as well as with two Southern California tribes.