Armed Tribal Feud Closes Casino

A California casino is closed after an armed confrontation between tribal factions erupted inside in the resort, forcing some 500 patrons to flee gaming tables and Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino to shut down late Oct. 9.

Photo: AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Tomas Ovalle
Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, shown shortly after its opening in 2003, is closed on orders of a federal judge and the National Indian Gaming Commission after a dispute between tribal factions resulted in an armed showdown inside the casino and hotel complex near Coarsegold, Calif.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Oct. 15 forcing Chukchansi Gold near Coarsegold, Calif., to remain closed for at least two more weeks. The California Attorney General’s office and the National Indian Gaming Commission initially closed the casino Oct. 10, the day after Chukchansi Gold was stormed by a group reportedly seeking documentation of casino operations.

The factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians have been battling for control of the resort, located between Fresno, Calif., and Yosemite National Park, for several years. However, the most recent confrontation – in which guns and Tasers were reportedly drawn – marks the first time the dispute moved from nearby tribal business offices into the casino itself.

Some 500 patrons fled gaming tables – leaving chips behind – as the fracas moved from the ground-floor casino onto hotel floors, with one faction reportedly commandeering the ground floor and the other holing up on the 11th, and top, floor.

Chukchansi Gold includes a 1,500-capacity concert venue, where Charlie Daniels Band performed Aug. 30.  Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Randy Houser performed dates there in July.

Federal Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill issued the temporary restraining order to close the resort because he believed the health and safety of patrons could not be protected, according to the Fresno Bee. He told lawyers and representatives from the competing tribal leadership factions to file motions and return to a followup hearing Oct. 29.

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said his office wouldn’t be filing any criminal complaints immediately, as investigators work to identify suspects on the venue’s security video. Recordings released publicly purport to show about a half-dozen cars and SUVs pulling up to the casino’s front entrance with men toting what appeared to be firearms spilling out of them.