FRESNO (AP) — A Central California tribe is set to reopen its casino Thursday, more than a year after a faction attempted an armed takeover, sending gamblers scrambling with chips left on the tables.
The Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino near Coarsegold will reopen in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations. A formal grand opening is planned Jan. 15, casino officials said in a statement.
The casino in the foothills 40 miles northeast of Fresno was closed in October 2014 following a fight between factions of the tribe that led to the armed takeover. The National Indian Gaming Commission, which regulates Indian casinos, and a federal judge shut down the casino, citing safety concerns.
The National Indian Gaming Commission earlier this month gave the tribe permission to reopen. As part of a settlement, the tribe must pay nearly $20 million in fines for filing late audit reports. Part of the penalties will be suspended if the tribe follows all the gaming commission’s orders.
Tribal council members decided Monday to open the morning of New Year’s Eve rather than wait until mid-January as initially planned.
The casino employs about 1,000 people and provides benefits to members of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians. The opening comes about two months after the tribe seated a new leadership council, signaling a return to stability.
“This is an important first step in bringing prosperity back to our people,” tribe chairwoman Claudia Gonzales said in a statement.
The casino includes 56,000 square feet of gaming space with 1,700 slot machines, 22 table games, restaurants and a lounge featuring live entertainment. Initially, about half of the 400 rooms in the 11-story hotel will open, with full operation expected in mid-January, casino officials said.