A small Indian tribe near Redding has won another chance for federal review of its offer to close a small casino in exchange for permission to build a bigger one on Indian trust land in Shasta County.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that federal officials improperly ignored the Redding Rancheria’s offer for more than a decade. The tribe, who are descendants of Pit River, Wintu and Yamo Indians in Northern California, has tried to turn 230 acres into Indian trust land, in an area known as Strawberry Fields, to build a second casino.
The Indian gaming Regulatory Act generally bans gaming on lands that tribes acquired after the 1988 law was enacted. But there is an exception for tribes with restored lands. The dispute began when the tribe sought to transfer land into trust, making it a restored land and thus qualifying for a casino under the rules.
The Secretary of Interior, who must review and approve the land restoration issues, denied the tribe’s request to take into trust the 230-acre parcel it had acquired for the new casino
The tribe, which had one casino, wanted to operate multiple casinos. While its application for trust conversion was pending, the tribe offered to relinquish its original casino if it was allowed to build the larger one on the new land. A federal judge in Sacramento upheld the Secretary’s decision to deny the trust land conversion based on operation of multiple casinos.
The 9th Circuit reversed. The panel held the agency should have considered the tribe’s alternative offer to move all gaming to the new casino. The court vacated the trial court’s summary judgment with instructions that the case go back to the agency to address the single casino proposal.
Case: Redding Rancheria v. Jewell, No. 12-15817