Casino ready to grow

July 23, 2003 12:00 am

By LENORE

RUTHERFORD

Black Oak Casino will be nearly six times bigger by the end of next year, and it will offer a lot more than gambling.

On tap are a 24-lane bowling alley, a "kids' fun" restaurant, a higher-end "signature" restaurant, a 250-seat entertainment lounge, a sports bar and a 3,000-to-4,000-square-foot arcade, said Lester Lingo, president of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk economic development authority.

Lingo said it will be a "kid-friendly" place with room for birthday parties and other family events.

All of that is in addition to an expanded gaming area that will have room for more card games and 350 new machines in addition to the 600 now in place.

The tribe opened the 28,000-square-foot casino is at 19400 N. Tuolumne Road.

Groundbreaking is set to take place in early August for construction of the 160,000-square-foot, three-story expansion in the casino's main parking lot. The first concrete is to be poured in September.

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

The expansion is on a scale the Me-Wuk had hoped to build when they first made a compact with the state for a casino.

Their 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 gambling on tribal lands.

Those compacts assert stringent deadlines. The Tuolumne Me-Wuk had until May 2001 to have a casino in operation in order to qualify for 600 gaming machines.

They made that deadline with a scaled-down version of their original proposal.

The tribe was one of three statewide that met the deadline and the only one that met it starting with no existing building.

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