Flood of big bucks and tortured history spell turmoil for California's Indian casinos

Industries Associated Press

When it comes to controlling California's lucrative casinos, the stakes are enormous for tribes who own the gambling operations that collectively generate $7 billion annually and outperformed the Las Vegas Strip last year.

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Several tribes have fallen into nasty, sometimes violent, power struggles. The Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino near Yosemite was ordered closed in October after one faction of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians launched a raid.

Gaming researcher Denise Runge at Helena College University of Montana says these conflicts reflect a classic struggle over money and control.

Indian casinos generated $28 billion last year from 449 gambling operations across 28 states, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Experts say this influx of money, which provides jobs, housing and benefits to many tribal members, has helped spark friction.