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Tribe plans open house

By LENORE

RUTHERFORD

The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk will hold an informal open house to update the community on plans for Black Oak Casino and the 300 acre-plus former West Side Lumber Company land in Tuolumne.

Consultants, department managers and members of the tribe will be on hand to talk about the plans, answer questions and accept comments.

There also will be plans and sketches for people to look at.

Ground breaking is expected this month on construction of the 160,000-square-foot, three-story expansion of Black Oak Casino in the existing casino's main parking lot at 19400 N. Tuolumne Road, about a mile north of Tuolumne.

It will include a 24-lane bowling alley, a "kids' fun" restaurant, a "signature" restaurant, a 250-seat entertainment lounge, a sports bar and a 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot arcade, said Lester Lingo of Tuolumne, president of the tribe's economic development authority.

The existing casino will remain open throughout construction, said Lingo, although details have not yet been worked out about how to provide access to it.

The tribe's venture into gaming is a result of the overwhelming statewide vote in March 2000 favoring gambling on Native American lands.

Proposition 1A allows the governor to negotiate state compacts with California tribes for casinos on tribal lands.

Those compacts set forth stringent deadlines.

The Tuolumne Me-Wuk had until May 2001 to have a casino in operation in order to qualify to have 600 gaming machines.

They made that deadline with a scaled down, 28,000-square-foot version of the complex they hope to eventually build.

The tribe was one of three statewide that met the deadline, and the only one that met it by starting with no building in place.

The deadline was later extended — after Black Oak Casino was already open.

After the casino was up and running, the tribe bought the former West Side Lumber Company land.


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