California card rooms start legal battle over new casino

By Don Thompson
Monday October 07, 2002


SACRAMENTO – The Lytton Band of Pomo Indians that hopes to open California’s first urban casino aren’t legitimately a tribe, card rooms that oppose the competition argued in court papers Friday. 

The band plans to convert a San Pablo card room into a Las Vegas-style casino across the bay from San Francisco as early as Dec. 7, when the federal government is scheduled to take the card room property into trust for the tribe. 

Four Bay Area card rooms and several community allies on Friday asked a federal judge in Sacramento to stop the land transfer, arguing the tribe hasn’t followed all the legal steps necessary to prove that they are a legitimate tribe. 

Tribal spokesman Doug Elmets countered that the tribe is recognized by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

He noted the card rooms failed in their initial challenge before U.S. District Court Judge David F. Levi this summer. Levi rejected their efforts to throw out Proposition 1A, which authorized tribal casinos in March 2000. The card rooms are appealing that decision. 

“They’ve already lost one round and they are clearly grasping at straws,” Elmets said. 

The motion for a preliminary injunction lists other objections, all of which Elmets disputed. 

The card rooms say San Pablo-area communities were never party to an agreement between the band and Sonoma County officials and landowners in which the Lyttons said they would not conduct gambling in that county, their ancestral home. 

They also challenge the snippet of a 2000 federal law that would allow the tribe to take control of the land. That circumvents normal federal procedures, the motion alleges. The legal provision inserted by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, was worded to prohibit the usual requirement for community comment and approval by the governor and federal Interior secretary before gambling can begin.