This is a printer friendly version of an article from
To print this article open the file menu and choose Print.


Article published Jan 22, 2005

The Press Democrat. For copyright information view our User Agreement

Feinstein revives casino bill
Senator wants Congress to withdraw approval of San Pablo gaming hall

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is renewing her effort to rescind congressional approval of a Sonoma County Indian tribe's controversial plan to build an East Bay casino, the first in a major metropolitan area.
Citing concerns about the spread of Nevada-style casinos into California cities, Feinstein said Friday she will introduce a bill that would prevent the Lytton Pomos from "short-circuiting the process" of gaining approval for gaming halls.
The bill, which Feinstein said she will introduce Monday, would require both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the secretary of the interior to approve the San Pablo casino proposed by the Santa Rosa-based Lytton Band of Pomo Indians.
It would negate congressional approval of the Lytton casino that was granted in legislation by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, in 2000.
A Lytton spokesman called Feinstein's measure unfair to both the 277-member tribe and the city of San Pablo, which has endorsed the casino project.
"It's completely unfair," spokesman Doug Elmets said, claiming that the federal government illegally took away the tribe's Alexander Valley land 50 years ago. "Now Senator Feinstein wants to take it away again."
One tribal gaming observer described the Democratic senator's move as a "political power play," attempting to force a Republican governor to endorse a controversial casino.
Public concern over the rapid expansion of Indian gaming was expressed in the 76 percent vote against Proposition 70, a November ballot measure that would have allowed more slot machines in tribal casinos.
Schwarzenegger negotiated a deal last year with the Lytton Pomos for a gaming hall with 2,500 slot machines capable of collecting $650 million a year in revenue.
But a political firestorm, including Feinstein's harsh criticism, prompted the governor to withdraw the deal from consideration by the state Legislature last summer.
A state Senate committee held an informational hearing on the casino deal last week, but took no action.
Friday, representatives of the tribe said it will soon announce plans for a scaled-down version of the original San Pablo casino plan. Margie Mejia, tribal chairwoman of the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, said the tribe would unveil its new design in about a month.
San Pablo Mayor Joe Gomes and City Manager Brock Arner attended a press conference with Mejia on Friday to announce the change. Gomes said San Pablo residents want the casino built, and said most of the criticism of the project has come from nonresidents.
Schwarzenegger has consistently said he opposes urban gaming, but was required to negotiate with the Lytton Pomos because Miller's legislation took the land into trust for the purposes of gaming.
  Miller could not be reached for comment Friday.
A Feinstein aide said the senator had not talked with either Miller or the governor about her bill, identical to a measure she introduced last year.
Elmets, the Lytton spokesman, said he was confident Schwarzenegger would continue to support the San Pablo casino. Feinstein's bill might go nowhere, as it did last year, he said.  Schwarzenegger aides referred a reporter to the governor's letter to Feinstein last year objecting to her bill.  Approval of the bill would "destroy the trust which has been built with the Lytton and other tribal governments ... throughout the nation," Schwarzenegger said.
Asked what the governor would do if Feinstein's bill passed and he were required to approve the San Pablo casino, Schwarzenegger spokesman Darrel Ng said he would not "speculate on hypothetical situations."