Casino Hearing Set for Wednesday, By: Richard Brenneman

Tuesday March 14, 2006

Proponents, opponents and concerned citizens have their last chance Wednesday to speak out on the report the Bureau of Indians Affairs (BIA) will consider when they decide whether or not to allow a casino in North Richmond. 

While Contra Costa County officials oppose the opening of the Scott’s Valley Band of Pomos’ proposed Sugar Bowl Casino in unincorporated North Richmond, the city itself is backing another casino proposal on Point Molate, and both proposals have drawn strong support in the African American community because of the promise of jobs. 

A leading casino opponent is East Bay Assembly Democrat Loni Hancock, who represents the city in the state Legislature and has called on casino opponents to come out in force for Wednesday’s meeting. 

“Join your voice and help us put an end to the deception that urban casinos bring prosperity and not crime,” she urged constituents Friday. 

The session, which will begin at 6 p.m. in Richmond Memorial Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza at the corner of 27th Street and Nevin Avenue, will last until the final speaker is heard. 

The hearing is formally a call for comments on the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), a document required under the National Environmental Quality Act. 

If the proposal is granted by the BIA, the tribe will be allowed to designate 299.9 acres along the eastern side of Richmond Parkway north of Parr Boulevard as a reservation for the Scott’s Valley Band. 

Backed by Noram Richmond LLC, a special purpose corporation formed by Maitland, FL., developer Alan H. Ginsburg—a major player in the tribal casino industry—the tribe proposes a 225-square-foot building with a casino, showroom, buffet and sports bar, along with a four-story parking structure and a 1,305-space lot. 

The DEIS also outlines four alternatives, two with smaller casinos and two without. 

The developers say the project would bring prosperity for an impoverished 181-member tribe and bring 1,885 new jobs to the city. 

The tribe has also promised compensatory payments to cover law enforcement and emergency services costs that would be incurred by the county. 

A copy of the DEIS is available on line at www.analyticalcorp.com, the Internet site of Analytical Environmental Services, the consulting firm which prepared the report. To access the document, click on “Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians” under the heading “Current Environmental Documents.” 

Though Wednesday is the last chance to comment from the lectern, the BIA will continue to accept written comments through April 28. They may be mailed to Regional Director Clay Gregory, care of the BIA’s Pacific Regional Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento 95825. 

Hancock and county officials have opposed the project in part on the grounds that gambling tends to increase as income rate declines.  

The DEIS for Richmond’s other casino project at Point Molate is still in preparation. That project is backed by Berkeley developer James D. Levine, Harrah’s Corp. and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. The Guidiville Rancheria Band of Pomos is the tribal applicant..