California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law a measure that excludes two tribal gaming projects from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The compacts free up the tribes on gaming expansion efforts.
This action also comes less than six months from when California voters will make critical decisions on sports betting.
State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, first introduced Senate Bill 900 in February. Co-authored by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, the bill ratified gaming compacts between the state of California and two tribes. The tribes are the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe and the Middletown Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.
Projects on a fast track
The two compacts are now classified as non-projects. This means CEQA does not subject them to environment reviews and public scrutiny.
Agreed upon and signed in March, the compacts free up the tribes on gaming expansion efforts. Some have been announced.
“For decades, the Tachi Yokut Tribe has been a valuable partner in the Kings County Community,” Hurtado said. “The tribe provides scholarship assistance, job training, adult education programs, health and welfare assistance, and other social services.”
Hurtado also expressed her delight at the Tachi Yakut Tribe receiving “the recognition they deserve.”
The news release also contained a thank you from Tribe Chairman Leo Sisco.
“On behalf of the Tachi Yokut Tribe, I would like to thank both Gov. Newsom and Sen. Hurtado for leading the effort to pass our tribal-state gaming compact. We are pleased to continue our role as a positive economic force in the local community while maintaining the important opportunities and resources for our members, many of which are made possible by our gaming enterprise.”
New compacts should promote investment
Only after a lengthy negotiation process could the compacts become reality. It also took consideration of requirements under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal precedent, technical guidance, and prior compact approvals issued by the US Department of Interior.
The Governor’s Office said the compacts will also support tribal investment in expanded services, local jurisdictions, and nonprofit and civic organizations. Certain areas will be targeted.
- Fire and emergency medical services
- Law enforcement
- Public transport
- Other urgent improvements
In addition, the Governor’s Office said the compacts reflect “a commitment by the tribes” to support the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund and the Tribal National Grant Fund “so that the economic benefits of gaming extend to all tribal governments in California.”
By endorsing the contracts, both tribes have also entered into a tribal-state class III gaming compact as per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. They are an extension of a series of existing compacts signed in 1999.
Highlights and planned upgrades
According to the 1999 compact, the Middletown Tribe runs the Twin Pine Casino and Hotel in Middletown. The locale provides 25,000 square feet of gaming space, with 500 machines and table games. There’s also a hotel with more than 59 rooms, that include three luxury suites, and dining and entertainment facilities.
A few hundred miles south, the Santa Rosa Tribe operates the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore. The venue recently announced a variety of upgrades to the gaming floor, food court, and also other areas.
New tabletop slot games will overlook the main gaming floor. Bingo will also return to the casino. It will take place in their new facility, Yokut Hall. It can seat up to 1,200 players.