SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled one of five gaming
compacts that he recently signed with the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians
because of widespread bipartisan opposition to what would be the first
major urban Indian casino.
The news came on the heels of an agreement that the tribe had signed with
the governor two weeks ago that would allow plans to proceed for what was
supposed to be the largest casino in California.
Located at the site of an old card club in the city of San Pablo, the tribe
had already scaled back plans essentially halving a potential 5,000-machine
behemoth because of protests from various Bay Area lawmakers.
Though the conversion of the old card club to a tribal casino was first
proposed in late 2000, the tribe has gone through a series of hoops to get
this project approved.
Controversy has dogged the project since its inception. The Lytton tribe is
located some 50 miles northwest of the proposed site and critics were quick
to point out this fact. Coupling the controversy was that Lytton gained
federal recognition through a rider by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., on an
appropriations bill in 2000.
However, former Gov. Gray Davis refused to sign a compact because of the
urban location of the casino. This was a stance reiterated by current Gov.
Though Schwarzenegger had been on record as opposing urban casinos, he
softened his stance when it was apparent the tribe was willing to give
nearly a quarter of its revenue to the state. Another reason he made the
deal was that the tribe has federal recognition and thus legal standing to
negotiate a compact.
"It was clear that the legislature needed more time to fully understand the
federal requirement that the governor negotiate a gaming compact," said
Schwarzenegger spokesman Vince Sollito.
The tribe's legal standing is not in doubt and this legality is rooted in
the congressional termination policies of the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.
When former President Ronald Reagan signed the Indian Gaming Regulatory
Act, in 1988 it allowed only formerly-terminated tribes, such as Lytton, to
acquire lands for the purposes of gaming granted a deal could be reached
with the state.
Lytton has touted this as well as local deals with the city of San Pablo,
who gave support when the deal was first proposed in 2000. Additionally,
the compact signed with Schwarzenegger required that the tribe not proceed
until the state transportation department, along with Contra Costa County,
agreed to it and the tribe gave a waiver of sovereign immunity that ceded
authority to arbitration and superior court if necessary.
Though the tribe has legal standing, other factors seem to come into play
in this situation, not the least of which is election year politics. Urban
casinos have been a hard sell with the California voting public and
speculation in some quarters is that it would be political suicide for a
politician to vote in favor of an urban deal. Though no tribe has yet said
so publicly, many of their operatives have decried the deal claiming it
would impact other Northern California tribes.
The tribe, however, would not comment on any of these issues. Tribal
attorney Tony Cohen declined comment. However tribal Chairwoman Margie
Mejia issued a press statement that hinted at election year politics and
said that she hoped the compact would be approved under "calmer"
legislative conditions in January.
"We would have liked to have the compact ratified now, but we'll wait until
the legislature reconvenes," said Mejia in the statement.
Though the Lytton deal was pulled, four other compacts signed at the same
time were approved. These include deals with the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo
Indians, the Ione Band of Miwok Indians, Fort Mojave and the Ewiiaapaayp
band of Kumeyaay Indians.