Battle over urban casino continues
Facebook Twitter Email
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2002

A federal judge on Monday upheld a controversial tribal land acquisition authorized by President Bill Clinton in one of his final acts in the White House.

But U.S. District Judge David F. Levi's ruling won't stop a battle over an urban casino in California's Bay Area. Although he said a challenge wasn't "ripe" for review, local card clubs and religious charities vow to continue fighting the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians.

"We strongly believe in the merits of our case and plan to appeal today's ruling," said Bo Links, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

At issue is the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act, which Clinton signed in late December 2000. Among other actions, the law directed the Department of Interior to take 10 acres of land in San Pablo, less than 20 miles from downtown San Francisco, into trust for the Lytton Band.

Critics -- including non-Indian gaming interests in Nevada -- said the provision was inserted by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) at the last minute. They said the law would exempt the Lytton Band from intense local and state scrutiny.

Levi yesterday acknowledged the difficult questions surrounding the land-into-trust acquisition. The law, he reasoned, circumvents the "consultation" process envisioned by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) for off-reservation casinos like the Lytton proposal.

Still, the Lytton Band's transfer has been on hold since the lawsuit was filed in February 2001. The tribe has yet to open formal negotiations for an agreement to bring casino-style gaming to San Pablo, Levi added.

"Congress’ decision to 'backdate' the acquisition of the San Pablo land is of no consequence unless and until the Lytton Rancheria seeks to enter into a class III gaming compact," Levi wrote.

Levi rejected a request by the card clubs and charities to halt casino plans. Later in his ruling, he suggested the challengers pursue other avenues.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, tried to do just that and repeal the Lytton land transfer in a spending bill. He later withdrew the effort.

The tribe has entered into an agreement with the San Pablo government in exchange for its support. The city would receive $1.5 million to offset lost tax revenue and an additional $5.3 million a year.

Get the Decision:
Artichoke Joe's v. Norton (7/29)

Today on Indianz.Com:
Ruling a victory for Calif. tribes (7/30)

Relevant Documents:
The Omnibus Indian Advancement Act of 2000 (H.R.5528)

Related Stories:
Federal judge upholds Indian gaming law (7/29)
Calif. landless tribe faces setback (7/11)
Group challenges California gaming (2/8)
Trust land decision said sneaky (2/5)
Clinton signs a final Indian bill (12/29)