Opinion: Tribal casinos turning California into another Nevada

Opponent speaks about lawsuit over the $825 million casino just opened by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria:
The Bay Area just got its first Indian casino - the Graton tribe mega-casino - and it brings mega-problems. North Bay traffic will never be the same. The tribe claims the casino will bring an economic boom, but experts say casinos catering to local residents are like parasites. They drain peoples' wallets and harm small restaurants and other businesses. Nevada works because it brings in tourists, not just locals. Such are the bane of urban casinos.

What can be done? Many people say nothing. We disagree. I am one of the attorneys challenging the legality of the Graton casino. We argue that California law authorizes Indian gaming only on lands under tribal sovereignty, and tribes only have sovereignty over long-standing reservations, not over recently purchased lands.

The state sovereignty issue pops up in varying contexts. Restaurants at the Presidio toyed with serving foie gras despite a statewide ban because the Presidio is under federal jurisdiction. It's the same issue here. Slot machines are illegal on lands subject to California's jurisdiction.

The Graton casino site was owned by non-Indians for 160 years. It unquestionably was subject to state sovereignty, including California's ban on slot machines. Even though the federal government now owns the site, ownership is not the same as jurisdiction. Jurisdiction does not transfer until the Legislature affirmatively cedes it. Gov. Jerry Brown concedes that was not done for the Graton casino site.

Get the Story:
Mike Healy: California should not cede lands to gambling tribes (The San Francisco Chronicle 11/10)

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Graton Rancheria welcomes union to organize at $825M casino (11/8)

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