Tule River Tribe flies high with Eagle Mountain Casino ribbon cutting

Eagle Mountain Casino opens its doors to the public 17 miles from their previous location, offers slots, tables, 2,000 seat event center, restaurants and bars

PORTERVILLE – The Tule River Tribe took a gamble over 20 years ago, but it paid off as they were finally able to open the doors to the brand new Eagle Mountain Casino.

On Tuesday May 9, Eagle Mountain Casino cut the ribbon to open the doors of their new location to the public. The preexisting casino has been operating for 25 years, but for a multitude of reasons the Tule River Tribe decided to make the move 17 miles closer to town. The new casino has been years in the making and located right off Highway 65 in Porterville.

This ribbon cutting represented more than just the relocation of a business, it signified an over 20 year long journey to relocate the casino. The new casino will be home to a 2,000 seat event center, River Steak House, a coffee house, a 24 hour diner, 1,750 slots, 20 table games and a sports bar and grill. All that’s completed now is phase one–the casino. Phase two will include a 125 room hotel and a 20,000 square foot banquet and conference room, which the city currently does not have.

The casino previously employed 460 people, but with this change about 300 additional full and part time jobs were created. Not to mention the temporary jobs created for construction. Also as part of the move will be increased safety and community improvements. The road to travel to get to the previous casino was much more dangerous and was susceptible to frequent flooding and road closures. According to the casino’s website, the new facility offers community amenities such as a banquet hall, outdoor stage, and convention space which is currently unavailable in the city.

Reclaimed water will be used and wastewater will be recycled for irrigation and other purposes. Also according to the website, a new fire station will be built on the proposed site and the existing fire station at the reservation will continue to operate.

As for the previous casino site, it will be repurposed to expand the existing Tribal school site. They will be able to offer more health services to Tribal Members. Offices will be moved there to consolidate Tribal government all in one area. And despite the gaming being ceased, some food and restaurant options for Tribal Members will remain open.

The casino’s relocation will also relieve existing water usage and drought concerns for reservation residents. There was much to do about having the casino actually uproot and move down the road. Because the casino had to move from reservation land, it required approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom. He gave his final approval and signed a tribal-state gaming compact with the tribe for the casino to relocate from above Springville to 40 acres near the Porterville Airport in August 2019. It also included his concurrence with the Department of the Interior’s decision to allow land in Porterville to be placed in trust allowing the Tribe to relocate.

 The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) generally prohibits gaming activities on lands acquired on behalf of a tribe after Oct. 17, 1988. One exception, known as the “Secretarial Determination” or “two-part determination” permits a tribe to conduct gaming off reservation land if it is in the best interest of the tribe and its members and if it is not detrimental to the surrounding community. The first of the two-part determination happened on Oct. 7, 2019 when the assistant secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), part of the Department of Interior, signed a record of decision (ROD) and issued a secretarial determination giving the Tule Tribe its blessing for the relocation.

The Tule River reservation was established in 1873 in Porterville, Ca. Tribal enrollment is just over 1900 and the reservation spans approximately 55,356 acres. The Tule River Yokut Tribe operates the Tule River  Health Center, Justice Center, and many tribal services within the reservation. The tribe also owns and operates gas stations, restaurants, and other entities under the TREDC (Tule River Economic Development Corporation).

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