Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Stop San Pablo Casino Expansion

From Contra Costa Times - May 6, 2011

"Her legislation would turn the clock back on the tribe to the point where it would be such an economic disadvantage to the tribe that one wouldn't even view it as remotely fair or just," said tribe spokesman Doug Elmets. "Not only is the tribe keeping the city of San Pablo afloat, but it is also providing a great living wage jobs."



The Lytton Band of Pomo Indians must obtain federal approval to expand its San Pablo casino under legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The Lytton Gaming Oversight Act permits the tribe to continue its bingo-style machines. But if it seeks to either expand its physical size or the type of gambling it offers, it must submit to the same lengthy and uncertain federal review process that nearby Guidiville and Scotts Valley bands of Pomo tribes have undertaken in their thus-far unsuccessful efforts to build Las Vegas-style casinos in and near Richmond.

The Lyttons sidestepped the process in 2000 when Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, inserted language in a larger Indian omnibus bill that granted outright the tribe's request to place the San Pablo land into its hands.

The Lyttons vehemently oppose the bill, saying it unfairly targets a single group and predict its passage could decimate the municipal budget of San Pablo, which relies heavily on casino proceeds.

Today, the tribe runs bingo-style electronic devices that mimic Las Vegas-style slots. It tried about five years ago to negotiate a state compact that would permit its expansion into full-fledged slot machines but withdrew when it appeared likely the Legislature would reject it.

If the Lyttons were to take a second run at it, Feinstein's bill would substantially set them back.

"Her legislation would turn the clock back on the tribe to the point where it would be such an economic disadvantage to the tribe that one wouldn't even view it as remotely fair or just," said tribe spokesman Doug Elmets. "Not only is the tribe keeping the city of San Pablo afloat, but it is also providing a great living wage jobs."

Feinstein, a stalwart opponent of urban gaming, however, remains laser-focused on all Indian casinos.

She also introduced legislation in early April that substantially tightens the rules under which all tribes may obtain the federal Indian lands designation necessary to place new property intended for tribal casinos under sovereign Native American control.

About 17 California tribes, along with dozens across the nation, have Indian land designation applications pending with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including Scotts Valley and Guidiville.

Feinstein and her co-author -- U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. -- say the bill will end reservation shopping by requiring a demonstration of substantial aboriginal and modern connections between the tribe and the land where it seeks to build a casino.

"Enough is enough when it comes to reservation shopping," Feinstein said. "The fact is that some tribes have abused their unique right to operate casinos and have ignored the intent of Congress by taking land into trust miles away from their historical lands. This is done simply to produce the most profitable casino and the greatest number of potential gamblers, often with little regard to the local communities."

The Guidiville casino proposed for Point Molate on city-owned land is dead after the Richmond City Council rejected it.

Scotts Valley tribal leaders remain optimistic about their proposed casino along the Richmond Parkway on unincorporated land in North Richmond. The tribe submitted its original land designation application nearly six years ago.

It is unclear when or if Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar or Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael Black -- both appointees of President Barack Obama -- will act on the applications.

 

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