Thursday, March 31, 2005

Urban areas are wrong place for tribal casinos

An Editorial in today's Torrance Daily Breeze...

Moves by Indian tribes to build gambling palaces in urban areas have rightly raised concern among legislators. Given the enormous profits that casinos can reap and the social ills that expanded gambling can bring, it's now up to lawmakers to put reasonable restrictions in place.
Los Angeles County must take the trend among tribes to "casino-shop" seriously. Copley News Service's Jim Sweeney has reported on the efforts of a Los Angeles resident to sell shares in an Indian casino that he claimed would be built in northern L.A. County. The man told potential investors he was seeking funds for a casino project for the Shasta Nation, a tribe based in Yreka. Shasta Nation denies involvement in the venture, and state regulators have ordered the man to desist.
The impacts of a tribal casino in the county would be decidedly negative: traffic, potential criminal activities, the need for more policing and more competition for existing gaming establishments such as card clubs and race tracks.
Legislative remedies, however, seem to be plentiful. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, drafted a bill that would toughen restrictions on tribes that want to build casinos far away from their ancestral homelands. But the bill would allow exceptions for landless tribes.
A proposed state initiative called the "No Urban Casino Act" would simply ban tribal casinos within 15 miles of urban areas as defined by the 2000 census.
And a proposed constitutional amendment by Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-Santa Rosa, would allow the state's voters to put a moratorium on gaming compacts until 2008. In the interim, the state would carry out a wide-ranging review of California gaming, including issues such as public safety, environmental impacts, local government oversight and financial effects.
Whichever course lawmakers decide to take, they need to ensure that L.A. and other urban areas have the power to blunt efforts to place mini-Las Vegases within their borders. That's clearly not what most California residents envisioned when they voted to allow expanded reservation gambling.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Thanks to your help...

In our local Daily Cal...
Plans to expand an East Bay card room located less than 10 miles from UC Berkeley halted last week when the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians agreed not to install 2,500 slot machines at Casino San Pablo, after facing heat from state legislators.

The tribe’s plans to install slot machines and expand from 70,000 to 600,000 square feet will be abandoned. Instead, the tribe will install fewer than 1,000 gaming machines, including electronic bingo, for which they will not need state approval.

Read all about it...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hearing Scheduled on Lytton Gaming Plan

Friends, I would like to share this press release with you from Senator Feinstein. I have the honor of being asked to testify at the hearing.

San Francisco – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced that the Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), has agreed to hold a hearing April 5 on her legislation concerning the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians.

The bill would require the Lytton Band to undergo the same regulatory oversight process for gaming as any other tribe that acquired land after October 17, 1988 – the date the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was enacted.

The following is a statement from Senator Feinstein on the hearing and an announcement by the Lytton Band that it would shelve  plans for a Las Vegas-style casino on property in San Pablo:

“I am pleased that the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians has announced that they are shelving plans to open a massive urban casino in the Bay Area.  I think they saw the writing on the wall and backed down.  It is the right thing to do. It is clear to me that when Californians voted to approve Propositions 5 and 1A to allow Indian gaming on Indian lands,  it was not to support off-reservation casinos and ‘reservation shopping.’

I also want to commend members of the California Legislature, and particularly the efforts of Assembly Member Loni Hancock, for their refusal to support a compact that would have been a bad deal for everyone.

However, the Lytton Band has not abandoned pursuing a compact that would sidestep the normal federal regulatory process – and their letter to the Governor holds out hope for approval either by the current State Legislature or a future Legislature.

I remain strong in my belief that they should have to pursue the regular process for gaming on newly acquired lands like all other tribes. That is why I am pleased that Senator John McCain, chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee has agreed to hold a hearing on the bill on April 5.” 

“ I have serious concerns about the expansion of Nevada-style gaming – with its slot machines and in-house banking – into urban areas,” Senator Feinstein said.  “This legislation is designed to prevent the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians from short-circuiting the process laid out in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act for gaming on newly acquired lands.”

Last year, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger entered into a compact with the Lytton Tribe that authorized 5,000 slot machines in a 6-8 story casino in the city of San Pablo. The proposed facility would have been the largest casino outside of Connecticut, including those in Las Vegas. Alarmed by the size of the proposed project, the Legislature refused to take up and approve the compact, even after the Governor scaled back the proposal to include only 2,500 slot machines.

Senator Feinstein’s bill would strike a provision in the 2000 Indian Omnibus Advancement Act – inserted by Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.) – which allows the Lytton Tribe to sidestep gaming requirements in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The provision required the Secretary of Interior to backdate the acquisition of a card club property in San Pablo to October 17, 1988. 

If the legislation is approved, the Lytton tribe would be required to go through a two-part determination process that requires both the Secretary of Interior and a State’s Governor to sign off on plans to build a gaming facility. This process also provides for consultation with local communities and nearby tribes prior to its completion.

Please make sure and continue to share your thoughts and comments with me and my staff. We will be sure to let Congress know how you feel.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Casino backers fold on Las Vegas Casino!

Yes, my friends, we won!

"I welcome the fact that they pulled their compact back, I think it was the right thing to do. It would've had very negative impacts on the community and it had little chance of passing the Legislature,"- Assemblymember Loni Hancock

Thanks to community opposition, and bi-partisan opposition in the State Legislature the Casino proposal at Casino San Pablo has been withdrawn by its proponants.

I will release more information on this new development on “Class II” gaming and what this card room means for our community But for now read more about it In LA Times, SF Chronicle and Oakland Tribune.

Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Oakland Tribune

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Doubts on Casino Growing Stronger...

Friends, our persistence is getting the message across. Thank you.

From the Opinion Section of The Argus...

Hancock says it's "a bad idea for the state, East Bay and city of San Pablo." She rightfully says that the intent of state ballot measures approved in 1998 and 2000 was to locate casinos on tribal lands where they would be economic engines for tribes seeking to escape poverty.

Hancock has submitted a bill to delay legislative approval of gambling compacts until 60 days after they're negotiated. She's also adopted this newspaper's stance that expansion of gambling into urban areas should be put to a public vote. That remains fair given the intent and wording of the original ballot measures.

Click here for the rest of the story...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Congress is fueling the casino debate...

From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, a critic of the new proposals for casinos in the Bay Area, said she wants to take a closer look at the gaming- zones provision to make sure it would not allow more urban gaming.

But she said she was pleased that Pombo had started a debate in Congress over the issue.

"It's still very much a draft and a work in progress, but I welcome the fact that there will be real scrutiny of reservation shopping and urban gambling," Hancock said. "Large scale urban casinos are not the way the people of California want to go."

Read all about Pombo's legislation and its potential impact.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Location, location, location...

From today's Oakland Tribune:

But state Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who has taken a lead role in opposing the compact, took a page from Sollitto's comments, saying she "would hope the governor would have some seller's remorse" for foisting this raw deal on West Contra Costa County.

Location, location, location

"The governor proposed a 5,000-slot-machine casino, the third-largest in the United States, two blocks from a freeway that is in gridlock for large parts of every day and in the middle of a low-income community," Hancock said, expressing disdain for Schwarzenegger's ability to assess casino impacts.

As for Miller, she said, "he had every reason to expect something smaller. The letter that the Lytton Band sent to Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1999 clearly stated they had no intention of enlarging the existing building."

Read the rest of this article in the Oakland Tribune

More in the San Francisco Chronicle

Even more in the Oakland Tribune!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Breaking News: Congressman Miller Urges Opposition to Compact

According to the San Francisco Chronicle,

Rep. George Miller, who got the Lytton Indian tribe the right to build an urban casino in San Pablo, wrote to California lawmakers Friday urging them to reject the casino plan...

"I believe that the current proposal is inappropriately sized for the local community and far exceeds what was originally proposed and what was originally expected by all parties involved," Miller wrote.

Click here for all the details.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


In Tuesday’s CC Times, in the 'Letters from our Readers' section, Bronson Frick of Berkeley wrote a thoughtful letter about Casino San Pablo and second-hand smoke. Here is the text of the letter:

“Recently labor leaders gathered at Casino San Pablo to announce their support for expanding that facility. We hope labor unions will seek to protect their members’ health, safety and well being by insisting on a smoke-free workplace policy as a part of any expansion discussion.

There are already dozens of Casino San Pablo employees putting their health at risk each day just by going in to work. An expanded casino would employ more than 2,000 workers, workers who will have to make a choice between their health and their job.

Casino workers are at greater risk for lung cancer and heart disease caused by secondhand smoke. Workers should not have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihood Ventilation systems, no matter how advanced they claim to be, do not protect people from health hazards caused by tobacco smoke.

There should be a new sign on the door: Welcome to Casino San Pablo. You have now forfeited your right to work in a smoke free workplace.

A 100% smoke-free workplace policy should be a term of agreement within the compact. Anything less would be a step backward from a smoke –free California and would cause irreparable harm to Bay Area workers, residents and visitors.”

Monday, March 07, 2005

This is what is known as 'bad news'

Did you see the Tri-Valley Herald? I was interested by an article about a recent study published on the effects of gambling, particularly the statistics about crime. We've heard how crime increases in areas where urban casinos exist, but here's some of the data, according to the Herald:
Grinols study shows that 9 percent of all serious crimes can be connected to gambling in counties with banked card games, slots, craps, electronic and video gambling and parimutuel horse race wagering.

That accounts for 615 more larcenies, 325 more burglaries, 272 more auto thefts, 10 more rapes, 65 more robberies, and 100 more aggravated assaults in an average county with 100,000 population, according to the study.

Another study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has a completely different take. The study analyzed social and economic changes between 1980 and 1997 in 100 non-tribal sample communities within a 50-mile radius of a casino.

Get the rest of the story here.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Still a bad deal...

... says the San Francisco Chronicle. Reminds the editorial,

The band's latest proposal is to install 2,500 slot machines in a 342,000- square-foot building -- which is five times the size of the current cardroom. The new proposal, with half as many slots as the one that created an uproar last year, is projected to generate more than $150 million a year in profits. The Lyttons have offered to give Caltrans $25 million for I-80 improvements as soon as the casino gets its approvals.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he has no choice but to negotiate a compact with the tribe because of the land's federally recognized ancestral status. But it's important to note that it has that status only because of a three-sentence amendment that was slipped into a 150-page bill that was being rushed through Congress at the end of session in 2000. Rep. George Miller, the Martinez Democrat who authored the amendment, has said he knew the Lyttons were planning a casino, but he had no idea it would be on the scale of something on the Las Vegas Strip.

He, and the world, now know differently.

Continue reading the editorial here.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

But, they don't have the authority

The Contra Costa Times reveals an attempt today by the Lytton Band to sweeten the plan for a bloated casino by offering to drop a chunk of change in an agency's direction. My office responded to the news,
"Once this money goes into the general fund, every special interest across the state will try to get a chunk of it for transportation projects in their area," Viramontes continued.

"The tribe can't dedicate the revenue to the interchange; they don't have the authority. The San Pablo city manager can't dedicate the revenue. Only the bureaucrats at Caltrans have that authority."

Click here to continue reading the story.