Two days before a four-hour community meeting on the proposed 2,500-slot addition to the Casino San Pablo card room, Sen. Diane Feinstein’s office announced she would introduce a bill to remove the site’s eligibility for tribal gaming.
East Bay Assemblymember Loni Hancock, who is calling the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday gathering, praised the move.
“I’m very grateful that she’s doing it, and I hope she gets the support needed to pass it,” Hancock said.
An earlier version of the bill failed to make it through the 108th Congress in 2003.
U.S. Congressional Rep. George Miller had tacked on a rider to the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act of 2000, backdating the Lytton Rancheria of Pomos claim on land they purchased that year to 1988, making it eligible for a tribal casino.
No new tribal casinos can be built on land acquired after that date unless the tribe was deemed to have unfairly lost their reservation status prior to that date.
Feinstein’s bill would strike the line of the provision, eliminating the ability to expand the cardroom, while allowing the tribe to retain the land.
“The people made in clear in the last election that they are concerned about increased gambling when they rejected Propositions 68 and 70,” Hancock said.
The two measures, floated by conflicting gambling interests, would have resulted in further casino expansion.
Hancock will be joined Saturday by two Democratic Assembly colleagues, Joe Nation from Marin County and Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg, whose district abuts Hancock’s.
Hancock has assembled an all-star panel featuring two of the country’s leading experts on gambling, Nelson Rose of Whittier Law School and economist William Thompson of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Margie Meija, president of the Lytton Band of Pomos, will present the tribe’s perspective at the meeting.
Among the others on the program are Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, San Pablo City Manager Brock Arner, city councilmembers from San Pablo, Richmond, Oakland, San Leandro and Alameda, and officials from the West Contra Costa County School District, CalTrans, the Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees union, the Sierra Club, and the Gambling Addiction Institute.
Hancock said she is particularly concerned about the potential traffic impacts of “a Las Vegas-sized casino built right next to I-80” and by impacts on the nearby Doctors Hospital, the only public emergency room within a 25-mile radius.
The Lyttons are one of five tribal groups who signed pacts with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger granting the tribes exclusive geographic franchises in exchange for 25 percent of net gambling revenues.
The accords require legislative approval, and the San Pablo pact has been stalled after fierce opposition arose. Schwarzenegger and the tribe agreed to scale back the deal from 5,000 slot machines to 2,500, but that wasn’t enough for opponents.
State revenues would be further reduced if two tribal groups win approval for casinos of their own at Point Molate and North Richmond—the latter a mere five or so miles from the San Pablo site.
“Once the compact is signed, there is no guarantee that the negative effects of a giant casino will be mitigated,” Hancock said. “Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), local governments have the right to enforce mitigations, but the San Pablo agreement is only called CEQAesque. No contract should be signed in any case without provisions for strict enforcement of compliance.”
The Lyttons are building support through an impressive media campaign.
Tribal leaders will present San Pablo Mayor Joe Gomes with a list of 1,500 casino supporters this morning (Friday) and are expected to attend Hancock’s meeting.
Saturday’s meeting begins at 10 a.m. in the Knox Center for the Performing Arts at Contra Costa Community College in San Pablo.
DIRECTIONS: Take I-80 to the El Portal Drive exit, then left under the freeway, continuing westbound to Castro Drive. The center is right at the intersection.