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California voters will weigh in next year on whether an Indian tribe from the mountains near Yosemite should be allowed to operate a casino along a Central Valley freeway.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today certified a referendum for the November 2014 ballot that would, if rejected by voters, overturn a gambling compact allowing the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to open a casino outside of Madera. The location near Fresno has been a source of controversy because opponents claim it is "off reservation" for the tribal members who live in a mountainous community more than 35 miles away.

Opposition to the North Fork compact approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature has come largely from competing casinos and their financial backers, whose business could be harmed by a new casino. Supporters of the North Fork casino say it will bring jobs and economic development to a needy part of the state. The project is backed by Station Casinos, based in Nevada.

The casino referendum becomes the fourth measure to qualify for the November 2014 California ballot. Measures concerning water, state finances and health care have already qualified.

The map shows the reservation of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the location of the tribe's proposed Madera casino.

PHOTO: Slot machines at Colusa Casino run by the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench



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