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City council votes against new casino near Madera

The Selma City Council voted to oppose off-reservation gaming, particularly a proposed casino project north of Madera. Not all of the city council members were in agreement on the issue however, with two of the council members confused about why Selma needed to get involved, especially since the proposed casino is north of Madera. By Kyle Lazarus; The Selma Enterprise
The Selma City Council voted to oppose off-reservation gaming, particularly a proposed casino project north of Madera. Not all of the city council members were in agreement on the issue however, with two of the council members confused about why Selma needed to get involved, especially since the proposed casino is north of Madera. The issue was brought to city officials by Janice Keating, representing the Keep Gaming on Indian Land coalition. The proposed casino would be on land near the Madera Airport. North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians wants to build the casino. North Fork Rancheria's land is located approximately 50 miles from the Highway 99 and Avenue 17 proposed location for its new casino.

According to Keating, the coalition has received opposition letters from Selma Mayor Dennis Lujan, the cities of Sanger, Firebaugh and Fresno. Fresno County has also acted to oppose off-reservation gaming. The coalition is working with leaders from Orange Cove as well.

Keating also provided letters from the U.S Senate and Congress in opposition to the project.

Council members Jim Avalos and Ken Grey were perplexed by Selma's need to oppose the casino, especially because of the distance of Selma to the proposed site -- approximately 43 miles.

Grey abstained from the council vote, which was 4-0. The city staff also had no recommendation on the issue, leaving the decision to the council.
Lujan said he was approached by Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea.

"Anything that would add to the proliferation of casinos is counter to what we'd like to do," said Lujan.

Lujan said that seniors are being victimized by casinos and that another one can only hurt the seniors of the community.

"This would be another wolf in the pack," Lujan said. "The seniors have been known to borrow money from each other and it got to the point that some were getting kicked out of their homes and their cars taken away."

Fresno County already has two other casinos, Table Mountain Casino and Mono Wind Casino. Chukchansi casino is in Madera County.

Grey and Avalos agreed that the seniors should not be victimized by casinos, but said that there was no reason to get involved.

"It doesn't pertain to us. I think we should take no position," said Avalos.

He eventually voted for the resolution, with some hesitation.

The council had a variety of options, including: Rejecting the resolution, approving the resolution or making a resolution in support of off-reservation gaming. The council also had the option to take no action.

Said Grey: "We don't have any business getting involved."