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Senate Passes Legislation Banning Casino San Pablo From Expanding Without Federal Oversight

Bill introduced by Senator Feinstein will prevent Nevada-style gaming in East Bay

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate last night unanimously approved legislation, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), to prevent a major Nevada-style expansion of Casino San Pablo. The legislation will resolve a long-running dispute between the local community and the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, and will end years of uncertainty over the future of gaming in San Pablo.

The controversy dates to the summer of 2004, when the Lytton tribe proposed expanding its existing 70,000-square-foot Class II facility into a massive, 600,000-square-foot Class III casino with 5,000 slot machines.

Although a compact authorizing the expansion was not ratified by the California Legislature, and the Lytton tribe backed away from their proposal, there is nothing in current law preventing the tribe from attempting to revive the proposal in the future.

Senator Feinstein’s legislation has the strong support of local officials.

“The United States Senate has taken an important step toward ensuring that the East Bay will not become home to large-scale, Nevada-style gaming in the near future,” Senator Feinstein said.

“This legislation was broadly supported in the community. And it means that the Lytton Band must go through the congressionally mandated application and review process before it can expand its Bay Area casino operations.

“I want to commend my Senate colleagues for passing this bill. I hope the House votes in favor of this legislation, and I urge President Obama to sign it into law.”


In October 2000, the Lytton Band, a Sonoma County-based tribe, obtained the deed to an aging card club located near Interstate 80 in San Pablo.

In August 2004, the Lytton tribe proposed expanding its 70,000-square-foot Class II facility – which offers low-stakes card games and electronic bingo -- into a 600,000-square-foot Class III mega-casino with 5,000 slot machines.

Under a loophole in federal law, the tribe could have pursued this expansion without going through the regular oversight process, which requires both gubernatorial and federal approval. The loophole was contained in an amendment to the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act, which was passed in December 2000.
This amendment specifically allowed the Lytton tribe’s acquisition of its nine-acre San Pablo property to be taken into trust and backdated to October 17, 1988. This enabled the tribe to circumvent federal rules making it difficult for tribes to build casinos on land purchased after October 17, 1988, when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed.

The Lytton Band’s expansion plans met roadblocks, but were never legally dead. Although the California Legislature did not ratify a compact authorizing the expansion, current law does not prevent the tribe from attempting to revive the plan in the future.

Feinstein Legislation

Senator Feinstein’s legislation will:

  • Strike the loophole from the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act;
  • Prevent any expansion of the Casino San Pablo physical structure, now or in the future;
  • Prevent the Lytton Band from engaging in Class III gaming unless they complete a rigorous two-part federal determination process. This process requires the tribe to obtain the direct consent of the Governor of California and the Secretary of the Interior, who must also consult with the local community and nearby tribes before Class III gaming may be allowed. No tribe in California has ever successfully completed this two-part process;
  • Allow the Lytton Band to continue its current Class II gaming at San Pablo.