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Article published Jan 25, 2005
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Casino issue unites 4 counties
Sonoma joins Napa, Solano, Yolo in
coalition to lobby for limits on gaming proliferation in area
Sonoma County is teaming up with three other Northern California counties to
create an unprecedented coalition aimed at restricting the development of Indian
The agreement between Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Yolo counties will likely be
copied in other areas, said Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up for California,
a gambling watchdog group based in Placer County. It is expected to be ratified
by all four counties today.
Local governments have formed coalitions before, but never to address the growth
of casinos in California, Schmit said.
"This is the first one to do so on tribal gaming issues -- it is very
cutting edge," she said. "By grouping together, they are going to
conserve their resources and can approach many of these issues in a more uniform
manner. They are going to have clout."
Members of the coalition will share information and lobby federal and state
lawmakers to require tribes to comply with local zoning requirements. The
coalition also will ask lawmakers to force tribes to mitigate environmental
impacts created by Indian casinos.
The coalition opposes all developments by tribes without long-term ties to a
The group is expected to meet intermittently, as needed, and evenly share costs
that could include legal and lobbying fees.
Coalition leaders are scheduled to gather in Washington, D.C., in March to press
lawmakers to consider local concerns before granting any tribe's request to
establish a reservation.
"The problem is, once the land is put into trust by the federal government,
the land is no longer subject to any local control, so Indian tribes have the
ability to build whatever they want without having to mitigate that kind of
development," Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Kerns said.
Supervisor Valerie Brown, who earns $180,000 annually in a side job protecting
Southern California card clubs from competition by Indian casinos, is expected
to be appointed Sonoma County's representative on the panel. Brown serves as
executive director of California Cities for Self Reliance, a consortium of Los
Angeles-area cities that rely heavily on taxes paid by card rooms. Its main
focus is to curb the proliferation of tribal gaming in the area, which competes
with the card rooms.
The formation of the coalition of four Northern California counties is a logical
response to the emergence of Indian gaming following the approval of Proposition
1A in 2000, said Solano County Supervisor Duane Kromm. The law gave tribes the
right to operate Vegas-style casinos in California.
"This, in some ways, is a kind of onslaught of gambling in
California," he said. "It didn't seem like a big deal when there were
one or two (casinos), but I think it has become a really big deal to a lot of
Sonoma County's first casino opened in the Alexander Valley in 2002, sparking an
ongoing feud between the county and the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians. Casinos
are also planned near Rohnert Park, Cloverdale and Stewarts Point.
Yolo County is home to the Cache Creek casino, but Napa and Solano do not have
"The whole point is to be proactive, rather than reactive -- being able to
get a seat at the table whenever something is going to be happening," said
Andrew Carey, management analyst for Napa County.
On Monday, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, introduced legislation that would
rescind congressional approval of a plan by Sonoma County's Lytton Band of Pomo
Indians to build a casino in the East Bay -- the first in a major metropolitan
"I have serious concerns about the expansion of Nevada-style gaming, with
its slot machines and in-house banking, into urban areas," Feinstein said
in a statement.
Brown praised the move. "I think the willingness of Senator Feinstein to
look at what is actually asked for in the Lytton plan is certainly a step in the
right direction," she said.
A multicounty, united front will merit more attention in Sacramento and
Washington -- before key decisions are made, said Mike McGowan, Yolo County
"It's one thing for one or two supervisors to ask for some help from the
governor's office. It's quite another when you see this mob of counties have
gotten together on this issue," he said. "That's pretty potent
You can reach Staff Writer
Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.