E-Mail Forum
  Contra Costa Times Editorial - Put a Stop to Reservation Shopping for Casinos
December 6, 2010

Editorial: Put a stop to reservation shopping for casinos

MediaNews editorial
Posted: 12/06/2010 12:01:00 AM PST

THANKFULLY, PLANS for a massive Indian-run casino on the beautiful Point Molate shoreline of Richmond appear destined for a long-overdue burial. Now, it's time for Congress to get behind U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposal to block similarly inappropriate casino plans elsewhere.
For six years, Richmond leaders have pushed the plans for a gaming center with more slot machines than the largest facility in Nevada. It would have turn Richmond, West Contra Costa and, indeed, the Bay Area into a gambling center.
Finally, city voters were asked last month what they thought of the idea and they overwhelming said they didn't want it. At the same time, voters elected a solid council majority opposed to the casino -- a council that will take control in January with the clear legal authority, and intent, to kill the plan.
We've heard rumblings that the lame-duck council might try to rush through approval of the project before it loses control of the city. We hope council members won't be that stupid.
Any such move would be political suicide for Nat Bates and Jim Rogers, the two casino supporters who will remain on the council next month. And defeated incumbents Maria Viramontes and Myrna Lopez could forget about any comeback if they ever hoped to run for elective office again.
Meanwhile, there's a bigger question: How did we get this far? When state voters in 2000 approved gambling on existing Indian land, they never envisioned the now-common "reservation shopping" in which small landless tribes look for prime urban property far from their original homelands for casinos.
To complete the deals, the tribes need approval from the U.S. Interior Department. For that, they must show that they have a modern and historical connection to the land. That was very questionable in the case of the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, which wanted to open Point Molate casino.
And they must show that the casino would not be a detriment to the surrounding communities. Here, it matters greatly what the local officials say.
In the case of the Richmond casino, a majority of council members has been blinded for years by promises of gaming money and has ignored the social costs.
County officials, led by Supervisor John Gioia, who represents the city, have sold their support in exchange for promises of a cut of the action. And the city's congressman, George Miller, has stood by silently.
None of them seemed to have any concern for the wishes of their constituents. That's a shame.
There is one breath of political fresh air: Feinstein has called for an end to reservation shopping. Tribes, she says, should "demonstrate substantial direct modern and ancestral connections to any land they seek for casinos." We couldn't agree more.
As Congress considers language to clarify the requirements in the aftermath of a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, California's congressional delegation, including most notably Miller, who has a long history of work on Indian gaming, needs to support Feinstein's proposal and demonstrate it understands the wishes of the state's voters.