Two California tribes have gotten an environmental pass from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for proposed off-reservation casino. They are the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians and the Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians.
The off-reservation casino resort proposed by the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians in Barstow, California, a town more than 100 miles from its San Diego homeland, has been given an environmental clean bill of health by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The public now has 30 days to comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). This marks a major landmark in the tribe’s 12-year struggle to build a casino in Barstow.
The proposed $160 million casino, with 57,000 square feet of gaming floor space, 1,325 slots and 57 gaming tables, and a 100-room hotel, would be located on 23 acres near Interstate 15, the route that many in Southern California take to travel to Las Vegas. It has the enthusiastic support of Barstow’s town government, who mayor, Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, hailed the environmental document issued by the BIA.
“Our city has a very close working relationship with the tribe, one that has been memorialized in a long-standing Memorandum of Agreement. I cannot underscore strongly enough how important this economic development project is to the revitalization of Barstow and the surrounding region,” she said.
Tribal Chairman Shane Capparosa, commented, “It’s an exciting milestone to get to. We still have a lot of work to do. It took us 12 years to get to this point. Now we have to take the next step. … We can’t let our guard down. We have to work twice as hard now.”
The proposal will create an estimated 1,000 construction jobs and, once the casino opens its doors, could produce up to $126 million annually in revenue.
The tribe’s reservation, located near Warner Springs, is 70 miles from San Diego, too remote, too rocky, too steep and too difficult to build on, according to the tribe. That is a recipe for applying for an off-reservation casino, a tactic that has so far been employed successfully in California by two other tribes. This process is known as a two-part determination of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and unlike most fee into trust applications, gives the governor of the state a veto on whether the tribe can put the land into trust.
In arguing for the proposal, the tribe has noted that many members live within commuting distance of Barstow. It notes that the tribe has a 78 percent unemployment rate and that more than 50 percent are under the poverty line.
While the Cloverdale site is considered an off-reservation gaming proposal, it is only three miles from the original reservation, compared to 100 miles for the Los Coyotes casino. It qualifies as an exception to the IGRA “exception” that applies to tribes that lost their federal recognition and then had it restored. In the case of the Cloverdale Rancheria, recognition was restored in 1983. Unlike the Los Coyotes Band, the Cloverdale tribe does not need to get the two-part determination to go forward.