Video Voter Series: Proposition 48

Video Voter Series 2014 Prop 48 from Claremont McKenna College on Vimeo.


In 2013, the California State Legislature passed AB 277 authorizing two gaming compacts: one between the state and the North Fork Rancheria Mono Indians and one between the state and the Wiyot Tribe. The passage of Proposition 48, a referendum on AB 277, would authorize the two gaming compacts to go into effect.

Existing Law

In 2000, California citizens voted in favor of Proposition 1A which authorized Indian gaming on original Indian reservation land.

Proposed Law

With the passage of AB 277, the North Fork tribe would be allowed to build and operate a casino with up to 2000 slot machines on land not considered as original tribal land. However, the federal government has approved the land for gaming. Because of potentially negative impacts on the environment, gaming would be prohibited on Wiyot tribal land, but the Wiyot tribe would have a share in the profits of the North Fork casino.

Fiscal Impact (as estimated by LAO)

  • The North Fork tribe would give a one-time payment between $16 million and $35 million to the local governments in Madera County.
  • For a 20-year period, the North Fork tribe would give annual payments of about $10 million to state and local governments in Madera County.
  • Losses in revenue due to decreased economic opportunity in the surrounding areas should generally be offset by increased revenue due to economic growth in Madera County.

Major Parties

  • Governor Jerry Brown, the California Democratic Party, and the City of Madera Police Officers Association all support Prop 48. No political action committee has raised more than $1,000,000 in support of the ballot measure.
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein opposes Prop 48. Table Mountain Rancheria, Brigade Capital Management LLC (and affiliated entities), Riva Ridge Recovery Fund LLC, and DG Capital Management LLC (and affiliated entities) are among the top donors in opposition of the ballot measure.

Arguments of Proponents

  • The casino will create over four thousand jobs, therefore benefitting the state and local economies.
    Proposition 48 will provide funding for schools, public safety, roads, and other public services.
  • Voting yes promotes tribal self-sufficiency.

For more information in support of Prop 48 visit

Arguments of Opponents

  • Proposition 48 would allow the North Fork Tribe to build a casino about 40 miles from the tribe’s original reservation land, therefore breaking the promise of Proposition 1A that Indian casinos must be held only on original tribal land. This authorization of off-reservation land would motivate other tribes to shop for land in order to build casinos.
  • The off-reservation casino will bring more crime and pollution to the Central Valley.
  • The money going to state and local governments will not go toward the state general fund or toward schools.

For more information in opposition to Prop 48 visit


Voting yes on Prop 48 would authorize the gaming compacts negotiated between the state and the North Fork Tribe and the Wiyot Tribe to go into effect. The North Fork Tribe would be allowed to build a casino on off-reservation land that would create jobs and increase revenues for state and local governments. The Wiyot Tribe near Humboldt Bay would not be allowed to build a casino on their reservation land.

Voting no on Prop 48 would not authorize the gaming compacts between the state and the North Fork Tribe and the Wiyot Tribe to go into effect. The North Fork Tribe would not be allowed to build and operate an off-reservation casino.

Want to learn about the other ballot propositions? Click here to learn more!

One Response to Video Voter Series: Proposition 48

  1. Dear Ms. Skinner and Claremont McKenna Collage Student,

    Congrats. This is a very good summary of a complex ballot initiative.

    However, as a representative of the North Fork Tribe, the subject of Prop 48, I have a huge concern: your lead in statement is incorrect and, optimally, should be modified because it potentially biases the rest of the piece by reinforcing a central though spurious argument of the opponents of the North Fork project.

    Specifically, the statement that Prop 1A promised casinos on “original reservation land” and the corollary therefore that the North Fork project will, de facto, be an “off-reservation casino”.

    First, in approving Proposition 1A, California voters authorized the Governor “to negotiate and conclude compacts, subject to ratification by the Legislature, for the conduct of [class III gaming] by federally recognized Indian tribes on Indian lands in California in accordance with federal law.” The wording was simple and concise and said nothing about “original reservation land” as some would now suggest. This is important because many other tribes, including the Auburn Rancheria which is now opposing North Fork, also built on new land away from its reservation that it acquired after Prop 1A in 2000 — AS WAS THEIR LEGAL RIGHT TOO!

    While opponents have twice attempted to argue in court that the voters actually intended to authorize tribal gaming on existing reservations only, both courts have flatly rejected the argument. In a May 2014 dismissal of a legal challenge to the Governor’s and Legislature’s respective authority to negotiate and ratify an “off-reservation” compact, a Madera Superior Court Judge concluded: [I]t is clear, at least to this court, that the people intended to expand Class III gaming to Indian lands in California where permitted by federal law. Federal law permits casinos (Class III gaming) on off-reservation lands placed in trust by the Secretary of the Interior…”

    Second, no tribal gaming project can technically be “off reservation” as all must be on official federal Indian trust land. This is a semantic issue now as even the federal government has regrettably used the term “off reservation gaming” (when they really mean ‘gaming on newly acquired trust lands’ ) though technically and legally it is an oxymoron.

    Third, and perhaps most important, when the North Fork tribe began the process to acquire new land within their historical territory they were technically a “landless” tribe – that is they had no land under tribal jurisdictional control. How could that be you ask that a governmental entity exists without any land? It is strange but Indian history and law is full of cruel truths and one is that many officially recognized federal tribes in California remain “landless.” A comparable situation might be student governments that exist but have no land (on a small scale) or even the European Community government that exists on a large scale but also has no land.

    The cruel and unfair history of the North Fork Tribe is too long to go into detail here but suffice it to say that this referendum represents a cruel, unjust double jeopardy whereby the Tribe, having finally gone through a rigorous decade-long federal and state review and approval process to rebuild some tribal land, ends up getting lambasted by opponents for “reservation shopping.”

    Of course, it is impossible for a “landless” without a reservation to be logically accused of being “off-reservation” or “reservation shopping” but this has not stopped the opponents of tossing around such claims to scare and confuse the voters of California. They make good sound bytes even if not solid facts.

    Even Ms. Schmit admitted to this when she said recently: “The North Fork tribe had no reservation, no land for itself until the federal government allowed them…these 305 acres at Madera” [SF Chronicle 9/17/14]

    In fact, in a 2006 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune Ms. Schmit went further saying: “This [North Fork project] is not reservation shopping…This is the state exercising its authority to locate gaming where it is wanted, ” [San Diego U-T, 2/4/06] — but that was before she wen ton the payroll of the No on Prop 48 side.

    What is “No” on Prop 48 really about then?
    Here’s what Gov. Jerry Brown had to say about the “No” effort to overturn these compacts: he called them “unfortunate” and about “money and competition.” [from “Voters may decide fate of Central Valley tribal casino” Anthony York, LA Times 10/1/13]

    And here’s what the LA Times said in endorsing “YES” on Prop 48: “To put a referendum on the ballot hoping for a ‘no’ vote is cynical, an unfair attempt to block a competing tribe that has followed the rules, worked with the community and spent a decade getting approvals.” [LA Times 9/29/14]

    So, i summary, the issues are much more complex and the motivations of the sides are a lot more murkier then they would initially seem. Words do matter and the simply insertion of “original reservation lands” can sow considerable confusion and damage. You’ve done a great start. Can you finish the task?

    I’d be happy to discuss this issue further with you and/or your class should that be of interest to you.

    Kind regards,

    Charlie Altekruse, Public Affairs North Fork Tribe 510-913-3669