The future of the small Santa Ysabel Casino in North County is in doubt following a recent arbitration judgment ordering the tribe to pay the county more than $3 million for fees it had agreed to pay in 2005 but never did.
Just this month, the county began the process of freezing the casino’s bank accounts.
The casino has struggled since it opened five years ago because of its remote location, off state Route 79 south of Lake Henshaw and north of Santa Ysabel in the backcountry. Documents show that in its first three years, the casino lost $24 million. But the depth of its problems have never been laid out so clearly as they were in recent court filings.
In 2005, the tribe entered into an agreement with the county as part of its compact to operate a casino. The agreement was for the tribe to contribute funds annually for off-site improvements and services such as an additional deputy sheriff, any criminal prosecutions that could arise from its operation, emergency response to traffic accidents and hazardous waste spills, fees to help pay for a District Attorney Tribal Liaison Office, and payment into a fund for services associated with problem gambling.
To date, according to Senior Deputy County Counsel Thomas Bunton, the tribe has paid virtually nothing.
“They never made any significant payments to the county,” Bunton said