The Press Democrat:

LyttonPomos offer state a slot deal 

Six tribes engaged in negotiating a pact on revenue-sharing

April 2, 2004


A Sonoma County Indian tribe is willing to pay the state up to $25,000 a year for each of the slot machines it wants to install in an EastBay card room, converting it to a Nevada-style casino, the tribe's lawyer said Thursday.The 253-member Lytton Band of Pomo Indians is one of six tribes involved in negotiations over a landmark revenue-sharing agreement with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Santa Rosa attorney Tony Cohen said.The proposed agreement has two parts -- annual slot machine fees, which the Pomo are willing to pay, and aa one-time, $1 billion to $1.5 billion bond issue that the negotiating tribes would pay off.

The LyttonPomo, who have a tribal office in Santa Rosa, are negotiating to pay the slot machine fee, but would not be obligated to pay any part of the $1 billion bond measure. Without a working casino, the Pomo "are not in a position to make an immediate contribution" to the state general fund, Cohen said.The bond funds would go to the state, and the tribes would cover the payments -- about $100 million a year over 18 years -- on the condition that tribes maintain a monopoly on gambling.In addition to any revenue-sharing with the state, the LyttonPomo would honor its agreement to give San Pablo up to $5 million a year, Cohen said.

Two other SonomaCounty tribes -- the Cloverdale Pomo and Federated Indians of GratonRancheria -- hope to open casinos in the county but are not involved in the current revenue-sharing negotiations.The Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians operates River Rock Casino, with 1,600 slot machines, off Highway 128 in AlexanderValley and is not seeking renegotiation of its gaming agreement with the state.

"We're pretty happy right where we're at," said Liz Elgin DeRouen, tribal chairwoman.

A revenue-sharing deal, if it comes, would fulfill one of Schwarzenegger's key pledges in last year's recall campaign: securing a "fair share" of Indian gaming proceeds to help offset the state's $17 billion budget deficit.

The 53 casino-operating tribes currently pay about $150 million a year into two state funds, mostly for the benefit of non-gaming tribes, and contribute little to the state's recession-battered general fund.

Tribal gaming revenue is $5 billion to $6 billion a year, state officials say.

Cohen said the LyttonPomo haven't determined how many slot machines they want to install in the 71,000-square-foot card club in San Pablonor how much of a fee would be paid to the state.In exchange for the annual fee, participating tribes would be entitled to operate an unlimited number of slot machines, which earn $50,000 to $100,000 a year. Gaming tribes are now limited to 2,000 slot machines.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or e-mail