U.S. Supreme Court decision on tribal casinos this week could present another challenge to the Enterprise Rancheria project, both proponents and opponents said.
The president of a gaming watchdog group called the decision in Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak a game changer because it'll allow private citizens more opportunities to challenge a proposed casino.
"In the past, the Department of the Interior was obligated to accept letters of comment on a proposal, but didn't have to read or even consider them," said Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up For California!, whose Penryn-based group has opposed Enterprise Rancheria.
"Now we potentially have a level playing field," she said.
However, an attorney for the tribe said the court's 8-1 ruling sending the case back to a lower court wouldn't apply directly to Enterprise Rancheria because the proposed Yuba County casino is at a different stage.
Attorney John Maier said the court's ruling allows someone to challenge a tribe after lands were taken into trust. But Enterprise Rancheria is still awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's decision on whether they can do so, and the governor has until the end of August to make his ruling.
Even then, Maier said, existing law allows for a 30-day period to challenge such a decision. The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court would allow challenges after the period, he said.
"It may not make much difference at all," Maier said, adding the facts in the Supreme Court case, which centered on when the tribe received federal standing, wouldn't apply to Enterprise Rancheria, whose sponsoring tribe was recognized by the federal government nearly a century ago.
But the landscape has shifted, said Josh Cook, a political consultant who has worked with a Butte County tribe opposed to the Yuba County casino.
"This changes everything. Before this ruling, local people were shut out of the process. This ruling requires the federal government to consider local input from citizens," Cook said in an email. "Now the process will include the input of citizens."
Schmit also said the ruling adds to the argument against Brown approving the casino. The governor's office has not indicated when he'll make such a ruling.