Dueling casino forums

Both sides are planning forums to win the hearts and minds of
SBC residents
Hollister – As the battle over a proposed Miwok casino in San Benito County continues, both sides have put together new plans to win over Hollister residents.

Both anti-casino group Casinos Represent A Poor Solution and the California Valley Miwok tribe are planning educational forums for the community scheduled tentatively for early this year.

“We already have a commitment from several of the leading (anti-casino) lobbyists, and we’re shooting for something in mid-February,” said Steve Merrell, chairman of CRAPS. “We’re going to be bringing in people from outside the community who have experience with casinos; we think that’s pretty supportive of what’s going on with our supervisors,” he added, in reference to a regional planning forum the board recently established.

The five-member California Valley Miwok Tribe has teamed up with investment group Game Won in hopes of building a resort/casino somewhere near the Hollister Airport.

The proposed facility would be similar in size to Yolo County’s Cache Creek casino, which is 66,000 square feet with 1,762 slot machines.

The Miwok and CRAPS educational forums come at a time when the two sides want to win the support of the people of Hollister.

CRAPS hopes to show local opposition to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has said he will not allow Indian gaming without overwhelming local support. And according to Ramos, the Miwoks want to work with San Benito County residents to build a casino that will benefit everyone.

“We have always favored an open process that will enable us to work with county officials and the communities that will be most affected by our proposed resort in a coordinated fashion,” Ramos stated in a letter to Supervisor Pat Loe dated Dec. 7.

The Miwoks and their investors from Game Won are planning educational meetings for Hollister citizens that will feature speakers such as Dr. Alan Meister, who is conducting an economic impact report of the proposed casino site for the tribe.

Dr. Meister is known for his annual economic impact reports on Indian gaming in California, according to a press release.

One prominent lobbyist CRAPS has already signed on, according to Merrell, is Cheryl Schmit, director of anti-casino group Stand Up for California and co-chair of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s campaign against casino-related Propositions 68 and 70 during the November election.

“I’ve been doing presentations to communities for years, and they have a significant effect,” Schmit said.

As an example, Schmit cited a talk she had given in Yuba County, where she said a tribe had come in and “seduced a couple of supervisors that were cash-strapped.”

Although the supervisors ended up voting 3-2 to allow a casino in the area, Schmit and other activists were able to get enough signatures and petitions together to show the Schwarzenegger that 3-2 was not wide-spread support, she said.

The governor chose not to grant the tribe a gaming compact, she said.

Ramos said the Miwoks look forward to discussing their plans with the public and trying to answer the concerns of the community.

“We are familiar with Cheryl Schmit of Stand Up For California from when she stood beside Governor Schwarzenegger in support of the new compacts he signed in 2004 with five California gaming tribes,” he said. “We look forward to working with Ms. Schmit and hope she will continue to support the new compacts being negotiated by the governor.”

Jessica Quandt covers politics for the Free Lance. Reach her at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or at [email protected]