California Tribe Plans $100 million Casino Expansion

A tribe in California’s Santa Barbara County, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, is pushing a plan that would allow it to spend $100 million to increase the size of its existing hotel and casino by a factor of three.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians California’s Santa Barbara County has plans to invest 0 million and triple the size of its hotel and casino.

This has not improved the tribe’s relations with its Santa Ynez Valley neighbors, some of who are suspicious over just about anything that the tribe is doing, even when those plans have nothing to do with gaming.

As one local resident recently told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s huge—a huge expansion. An expansion of this size does definitely get people out of their chairs.”

The tribe’s non-gaming expansion plans include developing 1,400 acres that it recently purchased, but which is not part of the reservation. They have applied to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to have it put into trust. Local suspicions being what they are, some residents fear that another casino may be in the offing, despite the tribe’s protestations to the contrary.  They see the two plans as part of the same plan.

The casino expansion plans include increasing the existing 94,000 square foot gaming floor by another 60,000 SF and adding a 750 space parking structure. A good court will also be added. The most significant addition, however, will be the 215 rooms that will be added to the existing 4-story,106-room hotel. The tribe is self-financing the improvements, without outside help.

Before the tribe may move forward it will need to negotiate a new tribal state gaming compact with Governor Jerry Brown. The current compact limits the tribe to 2,000 slots and 46 gaming tables. Once it gets the go ahead, it will take about three years to complete the expansion, according to the tribe.

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Lavagnino says the expansion is part of the normal course of doing business. “The market dictates what’s going to happen” he told the Times. “Apparently, they are making some people happy.”

The tribe’s plans for the 1,400 acres known as Camp 4 include building 143 homes for tribal members. It wants to remove the property from the county tax rolls and make it part of the reservation by having the Bureau of Indian Affairs put it into trust. Since that process also means that county land use regulations would no longer apply, some members of the community fear that eventually the tribe will build a resort or industrial use. The land is currently used for vineyards and cattle grazing.

The tribe says that its existing reservation isn’t large enough the residences. Critics say there would be plenty of room if the tribe didn’t plan even more expansion of its casino and resort.