With the approval last March of a statewide initiative and the signing of a pact between the governor's office and 63 Indian tribes, development of Indian casinos is taking off. Proposals for major new casinos are introduced seemingly every week, and tribes that operate many of the existing 39 casinos have expansion plans. The casino boom is passing by local government officials, who have no say over what happens on lands held in trust for Indian tribes. "If it's reservation land, they pretty much do what they want to do," summed up Tom Parilo, development services director for Butte County, which has two casinos. That can be a difficult to swallow because these casinos can dramatically increase traffic, conflict with existing land uses and spur other growth in rural areas under the county's jurisdiction. And, the casinos pay no sales or transient occupancy tax. Lake County Community Development Director Dan Obermeyer said he is sympathetic to Indians' economic development needs and their distrust of the government. But, he added, "I think there needs to be some forum. There are impacts that need to be addressed, and there needs to be some way to mitigate them." Phillip Isenberg, a former state lawmaker and now a lobbyist for the Alliance of California Tribes, said some tribes have worked out agreements with local governments. However, he said, "The tribes are not going to give control of tribal lands to counties or the state." The current system In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that Indian tribes had the authority to conduct gambling on reservations free of state or county regulation. (California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202.) In response to that decision and the growth at the time of Indian bingo halls, Congress approved the Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act of 1988. It established the terms and conditions of casino development on Indian reservations, which are also known as trust lands. The act created the National Indian Gaming Commission, whose primary mission is to ensure that games are managed fairly and that tribes are the main beneficiaries. The act does not address land use implications. Last March, nearly two-thirds of California voters approved Proposition 1A, the second time in two years that the electorate backed Indian casinos. (A second initiative was required because the State Supreme Court threw out Proposition 5 from 1998.) Approval of Proposition 1A validated a compact between Gov. Davis and the tribes that allows for Nevada-style gambling in the form of slot machines, video poker and house-banked card games. The compact has provisions that, among other things, limit the number of slot machines, outline what types of gaming is allowed, and require revenue-sharing with the state. The compact's environmental requirements are minimal. For significant new casino construction, a tribe must prepare a report of potential off-reservation impacts and make a good-faith effort to mitigate those impacts. A tribe is to distribute the report to state and local governments and the public, and the public can comment. But the state's only recourse is to challenge the adequacy of the review process, and only after attempting to negotiate a new process, according to consulting firm Waltona Manion & Associates. There is supposed to be a pot of money for mitigating new casinos' impacts, but the status of the fund is unclear, added DeAnn Baker, a California State Association of Counties lobbyist. Indians have pursued casino development as a way to fund housing, health programs, sewer and water improvements, and education, said Clifford Trafzer, a professor of Native American studies at University of California, Riverside. Thus far, transportation routes have influenced casino development, as tribes with freeway frontage have cashed in the most. It is ironic, Trafzer added, that the "worthless" land designated for Indians many years ago is now so valuable. The Indians' newfound wealth has also gained them great influence in Sacramento, as tribes have lavished millions of dollars of campaign contributions on state lawmakers and Gov. Davis. Lawmakers have generally taken a hands-off approach to Indian casinos. Davis, meanwhile, included $30 million in his transportation package for a new freeway interchange serving Casino Morongo in the Riverside County community of Cabazon. Big money gets involved Although tribes were building casinos prior to the March election, the tribes' new ability to have Nevada-style gambling has energized casino development. Within weeks of the election, major gambling companies from Nevada, Louisiana and Atlantic City came onto the scene with proposals for large resorts featuring giant gambling halls, hundreds of hotel rooms and strips of retail shops. Among the major proposals: o A full-scale, $180 million resort in Valley Center, in San Diego County, by the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians. o A $100 million resort in Jamul, just east of San Diego, by the Jamul Indians. The proposal requires the federal government to expand a 6-acre reservation to include 100 adjacent acres the tribe recently purchased. Kean-Arogvitz Resorts of Houston, which operates two Indian casinos in Louisiana, and Lakes Gaming Inc. of Minnesota, which developed Indian casinos in that state, are providing funding. o Expansion of an existing casino in Lakeside run by the Barona Band of Mission Indians. The plan calls for a 300,000-square-foot casino, 120-room hotel, golf course, restaurants and even a two-story carousel. o A $100 million casino and hotel in northern San Diego County by the Rincon San Luiseno Band of Mission Indians. Harrah's Entertainment of Las Vegas is behind the project. o A $90 million casino, also in northern San Diego County, by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Anchor Gaming of Nevada is involved. o A $60 million expansion of an existing casino near Coachella by the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians. Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., is behind the project. o An $80 million casino on 40 acres along I-10 in Rancho Mirage by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The tribe also plans to expand its existing casino in downtown Palm Springs. o A casino along I-10 near Coachella by the Torres-Martinez Indians. Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs) is carrying a bill that would compensate the Torres-Martinez Indians for the flooding of their land, which became the Salton Sea, and allow them to buy land that includes 640 acres along the freeway. Tribes with existing casinos in the area oppose the bill. o A five-story hotel and casino on Highway 41 in Madera County, about 25 miles south of Yosemite National Park, by the Picayune Rancheria tribe of Chukchansi Indians. The project also includes several large restaurants and a 150-seat nightclub. o A 125,000-square-foot entertainment complex in Tuolumne County by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuks. o A casino of at least 100,000 square-feet plus a hotel in Shingle Springs, in western El Dorado County, by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. A successful lawsuit to block access via private roads has halted the project. o A $100 million casino in an industrial park in Rocklin, in Placer County, by the United Auburn Indian Community of Miwok and Maidu Indians (see CP&DR Deals, December 1999). Station Casinos of Nevada is behind the proposal, which requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in trust. o Conversion of an existing San Pablo card room into a full-scale casino by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, who want to buy the facility. In May, Gov. Davis rejected a compact with the Lytton Band, blocking the proposal for now. o A 175,000-square-foot casino and restaurant complex in Alexander Valley, near Healdsburg, proposed by the Dry Creek band of Pomo Indians. Mark Advent, who built the New York-New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas, is involved. The sewer and water stick While local government has no control over development on trust lands, it does have a say when a landowner wants to annex into a special district. Local officials in several jurisdictions have used the Local Agency Formation Commission project to gain at least a little leverage over casino development. The Butte County LAFCO is considering an application from Gold Country Casino just outside Oroville to annex into separate sewer and water districts. The Tyme Maidu Tribe says the annexation of 34 acres is to accommodate residential development, a park and a large parking lot. Butte County LAFCO Executive Officer Paula Leasure said she is treating the application as if expansion of the tribe's existing casino were involved. Why would a parking lot need sewer and water, she asked. "We're going to be looking at it for maximum impacts," she said. "Traffic has turned out to be one of the biggest impacts we've had [from the existing casino]. I know traffic accidents are up significantly." The LAFCO cannot request changes in land use or project design, but it could ask for a large one-time impact fee, said Leasure, who noted the casino is surrounded by residences. Obermeyer, of Lake County, said officials there have used the LAFCO process to get concessions from Indian casino operators. Lake County has had as many as four Indian casinos operating at one time, and some tribes are more open to negotiating that others, he said. Currently, Lake County is processing a Williamson Act cancellation contract for the Big Valley band of Pomo Indians to accommodate expansion of a casino near Lakeport. While Obermeyer does not believe the land ever should have been placed under the Williamson Act, he sees traffic and wetlands concerns with a bigger casino — but no legal ability to address them. The existing facility is in a floodplain and a narrow two-lane road provides the only access. El Dorado County planners have wrestled for several years with implications of a casino development along Highway 50, a few miles west of Placerville. The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians erected a large tent for gambling, but patrons could reach the facility only by way of private roads. Residents of the area, a gated, large-lot subdivision, successfully sued to block the tribe's use of the road for casino access. Since then, the tribe has purchased property in an attempt to gain new access to their landlocked parcel, said county Planning Director Conrad Montgomery. But the earlier confrontation has steeled casino opponents, and the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution in early June opposing the casino. "The problem is it's entirely a low-density residential neighborhood," Montgomery said. "The ideal situation would be to try and find a completely different site." New representatives of the tribe have shown a willingness to negotiate, including offers to fund law enforcement and pay something like a bed tax to the county, Montgomery added. County officials believe a casino is inevitable, so they might as well make the best of it, he said. Other counties, however, have not concerned themselves. "It's never been an issue one way or the other for the county," said David Wert, spokesman for San Bernardino County, which is home to two casinos. Cooperation could grow Isenberg, the Indians' lobbyist, said Indians often have had no contact, or only hostile contact, with local government. "Traditionally, Indian tribes in California and most of the rest of America have had relations only with the federal government," he said. "Local governments just kind of view them as a pain in the neck, particularly now that they have trust land on which they can do anything that a separate government entity could do." But tribes are willing to be good neighbors and some of them are working out agreements with local government to fund emergency services and infrastructure improvements, Isenberg said. "If you try to guess where the next 50 years will be, it is with these agreements," he said. Baker, the CSAC lobbyist, said counties and tribes have a mixed record of cooperation so far. "It really just depends on the individual tribes," she said. Leasure, of the Butte County LAFCO, suggested counties might want to plan commercial development of their own near casinos to build the tax base. "One way the counties could get a handle on the casinos would be to go out and plan the area around the casinos," she said. "It would involve some extensive planning and general plan amendments up front. From a theoretical standpoint, I think it could work." Contacts: Dan Obermeyer, Lake County Community Development Department, (707) 263-2221. Paula Leasure, Butte County LAFCO, (530) 538-7151. Conrad Montgomery, El Dorado County Planning Department, (530) 621-5355. DeAnn Baker, California State Association of Counties, (916) 327-7500, ext. 509. Clifford Trafzer, University of California, Riverside, (909) 787-4577, ext. 1828. Phillip Isenberg, Alliance of California Tribes, (916) 447-7933. National Indian Gaming Commission website: www.nigc.gov Victor Rocha's Indian and Gaming News website: www.pechanga.net