Wally Leimgruber Raises Casino Issue Again
To The Editor:
Let’s go Shopping
The Manzanita Band of Mission Indians is currently engaged in “reservation shopping” to develop a casino 50 miles from its historic reservation in rural San Diego County. Their preferred new urban location is in the City of Calexico here in Imperial County. This proposal would require local, state and federal approvals.
Local elected officials have debated the pros and cons of the proposed casino and Imperial County’s focus has been on cumulative impacts that include increased traffic and the need for additional social services. These impacts could create a strain on resources in our area and hinder the future development of non-tribal businesses that will most assuredly bring long-term, sustainable revenue and jobs.
The proposed site is located in a market-area now shared by four existing tribal casinos. This raises significant economic feasibility concerns over the future success and the forecasted revenue to the City of Calexico and the County of Imperial. Moreover, will the proposed development phases of the destination casino/resort ever come to fruition and deliver the promised economic growth?
We are no longer in the gambling boom years of 2006. Many of the established tribal casinos have laid off workers, down-sized or stopped expansion altogether.
State and Federal decision-makers must consider different criteria in permitting off-reservation gambling casinos.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires a state’s governor to agree with the Secretary of Interior that the proposed off-reservation casino is not detrimental to the surrounding community. Criteria for consideration includes: removal of land from state regulatory oversight, loss of taxation for land and future developments on the land, the supervision of justice in the surrounding communities and impacts on affected local governments or state agencies.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s May 2005 Proclamation, identified criteria for his determination. He made it clear that off-reservation gaming proposals must:
“… substantially serve a clear, independent public policy, separate and apart from any increased economic benefit or financial contribution to the State, community, or the Indian tribe that may arise from gaming”.
The Manzanita Band has not articulated an independent public policy.
The Secretary of the Interior requires a Tribe demonstrate that it “needs” the additional land. Clearly, the “desire” for a multi-million dollar gambling facility in an urbanized area is obvious. But does it meet the core requirement of “need” in the Indian Reorganization Act for transferring state lands into trust for a tribe?
Does the “purpose and need” of a casino for economic sustainability justify the Manzanita establishing trust lands some 50 miles away, especially when neighboring Tribes such as Campo and La Posta have not moved from established lands to develop casinos?
All of us encourage tribes everywhere to pursue endeavors that improve their economic situation. But neither the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act nor the Indian Reorganization Act guarantees each Tribe a casino in whatever location they might choose.
As an Imperial County Supervisor I am obligated to uphold the justifiable expectations of citizens. To ensure that the permitting process and land use principles remain consistent and equitable for all proposed projects. Moreover, to insist that developments such as tribal casinos do not become a detrimental factor to the health and safety of our residents.