U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who had previously infuriated gaming tribes with her bill that would prevent them from “reservation shopping,” has introduced a bill that would keep the San Pablo Lytton Casino near San Francisco at its current size unless the tribe that runs it applies for a permit through a provision in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Under the Lytton Gaming Oversight Act the tribe would have to obtain approvals from the governor as well as from the Bureau of Indian Affairs before being allowed to expand. Seven years ago, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement with the tribe that would have allowed an expansion. However, that agreement was never ratified by the legislature.
This is the latest in a series of skirmishes between Feinstein and the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, although there are conflicting reports as to whether the tribe will accept the bill as a compromise or fight it. The senator calls the bill a compromise. The tribe does not.
Eleven years ago, Bay Area Congressman George Miller slipped a provision into the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act that allowed the tribe to convert nine acres into trust. This allowed the tribe to open a Class II bingo facility in a converted card room. Feinstein, who at the time condemned the legislation as being sneaked in “in the dead of night,” has been trying to undo that legislation ever since.
Currently, the tribe operates a casino with 1,400 bingo machines and several card tables. The senator’s bill would maintain the status quo, but prevent the tribe from expanding square footage. It does not address the number of slot machines.
An official spokesman for the tribe, Doug Elmets, declared, “Her legislation would turn the clock back on the tribe to the point where it would be such an economic disadvantage to the tribe that one wouldn’t even view it as remotely fair or just.”
An attorney for the tribe agrees. According to Larry Stidham, quoted by the San Jose Mercury News, “The tribe does not support this legislation. Senator Feinstein knows we don’t support the bill. Senator Feinstein has a right to portray it anyway she wants. It’s not accurate.”
Several years ago, the senator explained her opposition to what many critics refer to as “reservation shopping.”
“We need to be honest about the real reason we have seen a proliferation of cases like the Lytton, with an increasing number of tribes attempting to open casinos outside traditional Indian lands. I have watched as out-of-state gaming developers have sought out tribes offering to assist them in developing casinos near lucrative sites in urban areas and along central transit routes—far from any nexus to their historic lands,” she said in 2005.