NorCal sees 2 casino closures

By Barbara Engler

Casino Royale
On Nov. 3 the Sacramento Bee reported that the California Bureau of Gambling Control had on that day forced the closure of Sacramento’s Casino Royale when they allegedly failed to pay out nearly $60,000 owed their customers.
The allegation by the bureau claims that around Oct. 10 a player went to cash out over $60,000 won playing Pai Gow Tiles but only received $20,000. They were told to come back later in the day to be paid the rest of the money owed. Upon returning, they were then instructed to come back “several days later to collect the balance.”

The Bee’s report of the bureau’s investigation says that Casino Royale was over $260,000 short, lacking “sufficient funds to cover the chips-in-use, the players’ banks, the player-funded jackpots and house-funded jackpots.”
The club was given 10 days to show it had the cash, but on Oct. 29 the bureau found they were still short over $55,000.

The bureau, citing the state’s Business & Professions Code, said the club “poses an immediate threat to the public’s health, safety and welfare,” and made reference to the casino’s “inability or unwillingness to have adequate funds available.”

The bureau’s agents seized financial records, did an inventory, and began preparing for a full audit. An action was also filed to revoke the gaming licenses of the club and its owners.
The owners can challenge the losing of their licenses by requesting a hearing ­before a state administrative law judge within 15 days.

The Bee also reported that, “The club, which opened in 2008, has been embroiled in legal battles over its ownership, financing and remodeling work.”

Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino

As reported in the Fresno Bee Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold was closed on the evening of Oct. 9. It was originally thought this was due to someone having pulled a fire alarm, but in fact it was the result of factional strife within the tribe.

Three groups have been competing for control of the tribe and its casino. The groups are generally referred to as the McDonald, Lewis/Ayala, and Reid factions. On the evening in question about 10 to 15 members of the McDonald group made an armed incursion into the casino and gambling commission office, thus causing the shut down.
Gamblers were ushered out of the casino, unable to cash in their chips and gaming tickets. Hotel guests were evacuated from their rooms. California Highway Patrol cruisers and Cal Fire trucks blocked the street leading to the facility, preventing anyone from entering.

The casino opened in 2003 and issues of tribal membership began to heat up in 2007. These differences began to fester in 2011, leading to the creation of two opposing tribal councils vying for control. The first hint of major trouble came in 2012 when one group broke into the tribal office and refused to leave.

The Bee reported that Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the Lewis/Ayala group, said that “about 10 to 15 people in three to four cars entered the casino about 6:00 p.m., pointed weapons at security staff and moved them to a conference room before going into the gaming office,” where they “tried to remove documents.”
Both groups claimed to have had members hit with stun guns.

The McDonald group has said that they entered the casino because the National Indian Gaming Commission had threatened to shut down the casino due to missing audits. The Bee reported that, “Audits for 2012 and 2013 are overdue and the NIGC has threatened the tribe with millions of dollars in fines because of the late documents. The audits are required to show that casino operations meet state and federal gaming laws.”

On Oct. 10 the state Attorney General’s Office and the National Indian Gaming Commission ordered the casino closed. Then on Oct. 15 U.S. District Court judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ordered the casino to remain closed to customers and advised the three groups to settle their differences in order to reopen the casino.

On Nov. 3 four of the leaders of the McDonald group surrendered themselves to the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, facing charges such as kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a stun gun, and battery causing serious injury. One individual was arrested the previous day and 10 others remained at large at that time.
As of press time for this issue of The Cardroom, both casinos were still closed for business.