This is a printer friendly version of an
article from www.pressdemocrat.com
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
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
But a political firestorm, including Feinstein's harsh criticism, prompted the
governor to withdraw the deal from consideration by the state Legislature last
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
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."