casino 1Since California voters approved Las Vegas-style gambling on Indian lands more than a dozen years ago, it has grown to a $6.9 billion industry, with about 70 tribes operating casinos. Some of the Tribes in California operate in the same fashion as the Tohono O’odham have in Arizona.

In the early 1900s the federal government authorized the purchase of lands called “Rancherias” throughout the state of California. In 1958 Congress terminated the federal trust status of some of the California Rancherias – Graton Rancheria. In the 1970s after a series of lawsuits by terminated Tribes, the federal government reversed itself by settling these lawsuits with a series of stipulations. One of those stipulations required the Secretary of the Interior to recognize the seventeen California Tribes that had been terminated. However since Graton Rancheria had not participated in any of the lawsuits it was not entitled to removal of its termination status. In 1999 federal legislation was passed to restore federal recognition to this Tribe. Subsequent to that action California voters approved gambling on Indian lands just prior to Arizona’s similar action of 2002.

SanManuel1 house adjacent

Residence adjacent to San Manuel
Tribal casino. Note the wrought iron

Sonoma County, California is facing an unprecedented situation:  the prospect of five to six tribal casinos stretching along the 101 corridor, all of them in or adjacent to Sonoma County cities. How does Sonoma County compare to Maricopa County? Sonoma County (1,768 sq.mi.) is about 1/5 the size of Maricopa County (9,224 sq.mi.). Its population (488,116) is about 10% of Maricopa County (3.88 million). Yet this county, 1/5 the size of Maricopa County is facing the prospect of 6 Tribal casinos. The entire allocation for Maricopa County per the state Gaming Act is 7, all of which must be outside incorporated cities and on reservation land. If, as a result of the Tohono O’odham’s successful attempt to site a casino within Glendale and the destruction of the 2002 Arizona Gaming Act, the floodgates will open and just as in Sonoma County, we could see a rash of casinos springing up within cities throughout Maricopa County.

Here is a link to a July 17, 2013 article that fleshes out Sonoma County’s problems: The Graton Rancheria casino, under construction, in Phase I will be 450,000 S.F. and have 3,000 slot machines and 200 table games. In comparison the proposed TO casino will be 150,000 S.F. and have 1,089 slot machines and 75 table games.

What about the scads of construction jobs promised by the TO? The TO, in an effort to sell its proposed casino promises 6,000 construction jobs.  Yet the number of construction jobs generated by even larger casino projects nationally averages about 2,000 construction workers. While seeking permission to move forward with their proposed casino, the Graton Rancheria promised Sonoma County union workers that they would be first in line for construction jobs. Since that empty promise, out-of-area workers are being brought in. Workers are being brought in from “Nevada and the L.A. area” and even as far away as Alabama to work on the Graton Rancheria casino/hotel project. So much for reducing Sonoma County’s 6.5% unemployment rate. You can learn more about the casino situation in California by using these links: and

If the TO prevails is this Arizona’s future? Will we see casinos everywhere once the state Gaming Compact is destroyed? Will we see construction jobs promised but not delivered as out-of-state workers and tribal workers (a percentage of the jobs must go to tribal members) are used? Are we prepared to suffer job displacement and the loss of local businesses unable to compete for disposable income? In previous blogs I outlined the social and economic impacts of casinos and they are not healthy. In the name of “enhancing revenue streams” are we willing to accept further degradation of our societal values? I am not. I hope you are not, as well.

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