COARSEGOLD (AP) — A casino in Central California shut down after an armed confrontation last week between tribal factions will remain indefinitely closed pending court-mandated talks, a judge ordered Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill said at the outset of a hearing that he did not see a good outcome if he imposed settlement negotiations among three disputing factions behind the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold. His mind changed by the end of the two-hour hearing when attorneys said they felt there was room for agreement.
“Take your job seriously, and get it done,” O’Neill said.
The judge on Friday, acting on an emergency request by the state attorney general, ordered the casino closed when armed members of one the factions entered the casino to try to collect boxes of records. The National Indian Gaming Commission also ordered the casino closed, citing a need to protect the safety of casino patrons and employees.
About 500 people fled the casino, some leaving chips on the tables.
In his ruling Wednesday, the judge also banned any members of the tribe’s factions from bringing firearms into the casino.
The casino’s general manager will be allowed to handle the finances, such as depositing money into the bank, while the dispute is resolved, which could take weeks or longer.
Until then, the casino, which takes in more than $1 million a day from gambling, remains closed to the public.
Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, whose deputies responded to last week’s confrontation, said after the hearing that he was encouraged by the three sides agree to court mediation. Anderson said he is hopeful the dispute will finally be resolved.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard somebody say they’ll sit down and figure it out,” he said. “Everybody in open court agreed to it.”
No criminal charges have been filed stemming from the physical confrontation.
In another case, a federal judge in Sacramento earlier this year also ordered mediation for divided members of a Native American tribe vying for control of the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning.