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The saga of a controversial Indian casino that the Legislature approved last month gets another airing today -- this time, before a judge.

Opponents of a casino for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians have brought a lawsuit against the state that is scheduled for a hearing today in Madera Superior Court. Stand Up California, a tribal gambling watchdog group, alleges that Gov. Jerry Brown did not have authority to grant the building of a casino with the tribe when he negotiated a compact with them last year. The land along Highway 99 in Madera County where the tribe wants to build its casino was not yet in federal trust, the process for a tribe to take control of a piece of land.

"He gave a compact and casino approval on August 31, but the land didn't go into trust until February of the following year," said Cheryl Schmit, director of the group.

Her group is also working to defeat approval of the casino through the ballot box, working toward a referendum to overturn the Legislature's approval.

The North Fork proposal is more controversial than most because the tribe wants to build its casino more than 35 miles from the village near Yosemite where tribal members live. Supporters say the tribe's mountainous property is unsuitable for a casino. Opponents say its desire to build a casino near the freeway amounts to "off reservation" gambling.

PHOTO: Pamela Stottlemyre of Sacramento plays a slot machine at the Colusa Casino in April, 2013. The tribe was one of several that opposed a new casino for the North Fork group of Indians. Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench


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