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An interview with San Pasqual chairman Allen Lawson

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SAN DIEGO - The San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, based in northern San Diego County, like many Southern California gaming tribes is going through a period of expansion. The tribe currently operates a 900-machine casino and is in a construction phase in which their operation will expand to 1,500 machines. The full casino is slated to open on June 28. However, Allen Lawson, the San Pasqual chairman says that the tribe will not stop there. In a recent telephone interview Chairman Lawson revealed the tribe's economic direction after construction.

ICT: Tell me a little about yourself.

Lawson: Well I'm 60 years old, I've been married for 44 years and have three children, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

ICT: How long have you been the chairman at San Pasqual?

Lawson: This is my fourth consecutive two-year term. In fact we just had elections and we have a whole new tribal council for the next two years consisting of Patricia Ockert, Valerie Juarez, Catalina Campo and Cheryl Black. This new council will have the responsibility to see us through our economic expansion.

ICT: How do you see the business climate in general for California Indian tribes? Do you think that it will move beyond gaming?

Lawson: Yes, definitely. Viejas is a primary example, with their new shopping mall. Look at Morongo with their new water bottling plant and their giant gas station. San Manuel is also expanding into other fields. The tribes are being very quick to diversify their businesses. Some tribes up in Northern California are also investing in commercial buildings and offices.

ICT: What about San Pasqual?

Lawson: We're working on setting up a new economic development board that will help us decide where to invest our gaming profits. We want to expand out to into the private sector.

ICT: What kind of investments are you looking for?

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Lawson: We are looking for investments all over. We want to find things that are going to be good long-term investments; investments that are sound and are good for the tribe in the long run.

ICT: Tell me a little more about the economic development board.

Lawson: Well, in our last election the tribe voted to put together a five-member economic development board that is just being assembled right now. The board will allow us to ponder our choices and will work to make recommendations on the kinds of investments that we will make.

ICT: How will this affect the tribal economy?

Lawson: Well, it will affect the community beyond the tribe; we don't have enough people so our enterprises will create jobs for the local community as well.

ICT: How many tribal members are there at San Pasqual?

Lawson: We have 315 members, and our business ventures will employ many more people than that.

ICT: Since California's tribes are currently re-negotiating the terms of their gaming compacts with the state, do you think that the final outcome of these re-negotiations will have an impact on tribal business?

Lawson: No, because our economic structure is outside of the compacts and outside of the re-negotiation process. Dealing with the state of California is just a part of normal daily life for the other tribes, and us, but will not have an overall effect on tribal business.

ICT: Do you have a timetable for your economic goals?

Lawson: Well, as I said we are just putting the economic development board together right now and they will be working soon, as well as our casino expansion next month. In about 30 days we should have some real news about where we're going in terms of our business.