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The tribe's victory, it turns out, was in part the result of another lucky break. The expected opposition to the omnibus bill -- from commercial gambling, card clubs, and anti-gaming organizations -- never materialized. Apparently, they didn't realize that Miller's provision had been added.
"No one read it," Katz marvels. "[Legislative] aides are supposed to read these things. Or lobbyists from Nevada are supposed to watch this stuff. If they feel misled, then they should look in the mirror."
A lot of people do indeed feel misled. Some members of Congress and the gaming industry have publicly called Miller's move "midnight legislation" and "underhanded."
"I personally think this bill borders on the illegal," says Professor Nelson Rose, a gambling law expert from Whittier College. "It was buried in a section of a bill called "technical corrections' that dealt with minor issues. To authorize an urban casino is not a technical change, it's a substantive change, and I think it can be [legally] challenged.
"You will probably not find anything this unusual again, partly because the Nevada delegation is now on its toes."
Nathan Naylor, spokesperson for Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid, says Miller's provision was written "to obscure or conceal what this provision would have done." Sen. Reid, however, sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which worked with the House to draft the identical omnibus Indian bills.
But others regard Miller's provision as simply savvy politicking. "It's not uncommon to put together an omnibus bill at the end of a Congress," says Michael Jackson, former deputy staff director for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). "And there is horse-trading, and there is compromise. That's the way the republic works. It's unfair to call it underhanded.
"Put yourself in Miller's position. You're a Democrat and you're radioactive in the eyes of the Republican leadership. So how do you get bills passed? Well, you don't go waving it around and bringing a lot of attention to it. So he brings in the time-honored tactic of the omnibus bill to get it in, and some people will be upset after the fact, but that's the price you pay. It's not the first time a bill got passed in this fashion."
If all goes well, Lytton could take over the Casino San Pablo as early as this summer. At first, it will run so-called Class II gaming: high-stakes bingo and other card games. But before the tribe can transition to Class III slot machines and blackjack, it must negotiate a "compact," or a regulatory agreement, with Gov. Gray Davis.
Obtaining a compact won't be smooth sailing. Davis has publicly denounced Indian gaming in urban areas, though he is required by federal law to negotiate with Lytton "in good faith." In the end, the governor cannot turn Lytton away, since he signed compacts with more than 60 tribes in 1999, says Whittier College's Rose. "He can stall for quite a while, but there's no doubt that given the law, the state has to enter into the compact with this band."
Still, local card clubs and racetracks that fear for their bottom line have waged a media and grass-roots campaign against the compact. They have formed a group called the Coalition Against Neighborhood Nevada Gambling and are organizing area residents around concerns over a Nevada-style casino in their city.
The group has filed a lawsuit to stop a Lytton compact, encouraged people to send letters of protest to Gov. Davis, and funded a TV commercial aired in the East Bay featuring Richmond's Mayor Corbin. Several local newspapers have also written scathing editorials opposing the Nevada-style casino.
Yet one opponent of expanded gambling, Cheryl Schmidt of Stand-Up California, says that despite her original support of the coalition, she has since decided to support Lytton.
Schmidt believes the coalition has misled citizens about the importance of a state compact. With the passage of Miller's provision, she says, the Indian-run casino is inevitable, and Lytton is already entitled to operate the casino as a card club -- but without state regulation. A compact, Schmidt argues, will be better for citizens because it will give the state more legal oversight.
Lytton, meanwhile, has not responded to its critics and has not pushed publicly for a compact. The tribe says it has not thought about political strategies and does not think they will be necessary. Lytton has not even approached Gov. Davis for a compact, because the band believes he is distracted by the energy crisis, and it would rather wait for a more opportune time.
"We believe that since this is a win-win situation, if we lay out all the steps we've taken to be a good neighbor, the governor will give us a compact," Mejia insists.
Still, it appears that Davis is not enthusiastic about the Lytton casino. "His general point of view is that he is personally not a big fan of gaming and that he doesn't want to see a big expansion in urban areas," says Davis spokesperson Hillary McLean.
A two-lane road off Highway 101 leads to a wooded, grassy plot in Windsor, north of Santa Rosa. When the casino dollars start rolling in, the Lytton tribe plans to buy the 50 acres hidden behind a thicket of young trees and build modest homes for its members.