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Senate Committee Approves Feinstein Legislation Banning Nevada-style Gambling in Bay Area Without Federal Oversight

-Feinstein legislation breaks long stalemate over San Pablo casino-

Washington, DC – The Senate Indian Affairs Committee today unanimously approved legislation by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that prevents a major Nevada-style expansion of Casino San Pablo. Senator Feinstein’s legislation resolves a long-running dispute between the local community and the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, and ends years of uncertainty over the future of gaming in San Pablo.

In the summer of 2004, 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, who have fought expansion plans in the past, as well as the Lytton tribe.

“Today’s vote is an important step forward. This legislation virtually eliminates the possibility of a major expansion of Casino San Pablo, a possibility that had generated strong opposition from the surrounding community. This legislation ensures that the Bay Area will not become home to large-scale, Nevada-style gambling any time in the near future,” Senator Feinstein said.

“I want to thank Senator Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Committee, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member, for supporting this legislation and guiding it successfully through the Indian Affairs Committee. I also want to thank Assemblywoman Loni Hancock for her leadership.”

“I applaud Senator Feinstein for her critical legislation that protects the Bay Area from massive Las Vegas-style casinos. The bill’s unanimous and bipartisan passage out of the Senate policy committee further demonstrates that urban areas of California are not the location for massive Las Vegas-style casinos,” said Assemblywoman Loni Hancock.


 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 megacasino 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;

Senator Feinstein introduced similar legislation in the 108th and 109th Congresses, but those bills – which would have effectively required closing the San Pablo casino – stalled. The legislation approved today by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee breaks this stalemate.