Press Democrate, 1/11/05, p. B1

Tribe airs casino plan at Capitol
Lytton Band compact for San Pablo gambling center goes before Senate panel

A Sonoma County Indian tribe is renewing efforts to gain state legislative approval of a deal to operate an East Bay casino that is projected to make about $650 million a year.  Leaders of the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians will attend a five-hour hearing Wednesday with a state Senate committee in Sacramento, where they will discuss the agreement, known as a compact, the tribe negotiated last year with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  On Monday, the tribe released an economic analysis that said the proposed San Pablo casino would provide almost 3,000 jobs with an annual payroll of nearly $100 million a year.

The casino, with 2,500 slot machines and 200 gaming tables, would inject more than $600 million a year into the state economy, said the analysis prepared by a Los Angeles consulting firm, Economics Research Associates, and paid for by the tribe.  With revenues of $657 million a year, the casino would pay about $155 million a year to the city, county and state government, the report said.
Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, said the numbers tell only half the story. "It's really a one-sided equation," he said. "They looked at the benefits but not the costs to the municipalities.  "Nation, whose Sonoma-Marin district lies across San Francisco Bay from the proposed casino, said gambling primarily transfers wealth rather than generating it. "It's a mistake to equate gambling with many other industries we're trying to grow," he said.

Lytton tribal Chairwoman Margie Mejia and other representatives of the 259-member tribe will attend an informational hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization.
Lytton's compact was one of five casino deals negotiated by the governor last summer at the end of the legislative session. Four compacts were approved, but Lytton's was withdrawn amid lawmakers' complaints that the casino was too large and the details of the deal unknown.  Schwarzenegger has pledged to obtain a "fair share" of Indian gaming revenues for the state, and the Lytton compact would be the most lucrative, promising the state 25 percent of the tribe's gaming revenues.

"This is kind of a fresh start," tribal spokesman Nick DeLuca said Monday.  The committee will not vote on the Lytton compact Wednesday, and DeLuca and Nation said they did not know when it might come up for formal consideration.  Nation said he thought the governor and his aides might be "trying to gauge the temperature of the Legislature."

The tribe, whose ancestral home is in the Alexander Valley, gained the right to operate the San Pablo casino thanks to special federal legislation by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.  The Pomos own a 9.5-acre site in San Pablo that currently houses a card room, but need state approval - the compact - to convert it to a casino with Nevada-style gaming, including slot machines.  Critics say approval of the Lytton deal would open the door to other urban casinos in California. "It's the nose under the tent," Nation said.  California Indian gaming has mushroomed into a $4 billion to $6 billion a year industry, with 52 tribes operating 53 casinos, including one in Sonoma County operated by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.

A third tribe, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, wants to build a casino with 2,000 slot machines on the west edge of Rohnert Park. That project, including a hotel and performing arts center, would provide 2,200 jobs, the tribe said.
San Pablo is an economically underprivileged area of Contra Costa County, located near the east end of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge.  The Lytton tribe and its partners would spend $400 million to develop the casino, contributing a one-time economic boost of $335 million and 6,800 construction-related jobs to the region, the report said.