Concerns Hamper Casino Debate
By Staff
In California, concerns over traffic and noise pollution, declining property values and public safety dominated a Federal fact-finding session last week into a proposal by the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians to build a new hotel and casino complex on property bordering the reservation.

A hearing held in the nearby town of Hemet and hosted by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs drew more than 200 residents, tribal members and civic leaders with most speakers objecting to the plan. At issue is a proposal by the tribe to change the status of 535 acres of land it already owns so that this area could be developed.

The tribe would like to construct a 90,000 square foot casino with 70,000 square foot of gambling area alongside a 300-room 224,000 square foot hotel, a 2,200-space parking garage and restaurants, shops and a spa. Also included in the plan would be a tribal fire station and a wastewater treatment plant.

The new casino would replace an existing one on reservation land with Patrick O'Mallan, Environmental Protection Specialist for the Bureau's Pacific region, stating that the hearing was the first step in a process that could last several years. He stated that no other California tribe has been allowed to put land in trust for the purposes of operating a casino with the ultimate decision resting with the US Secretary of the Interior.

'We do not need or want a Las Vegas-style casino at our front doors,' said local resident Hal Retzlaff.

'This project will change the environment forever with noise and traffic. We'd be living in virtually 24 hours of daylight.'

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