Uh oh. Is a Santa Barbara-Style Casino Coming to Napa?

on 19/08/14 at 9:40 am

Booze News

indexA proposed rule change by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs could lead to new casinos in California’s wine country.

How would Napa Valley look with a casino and a 12-story hotel in the middle of the now-scenic horizon? That’s the nightmare the county fears if the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs goes through with a proposed rules change.

The new rule, if passed, would make it easier for Native American tribes to gain federal recognition. One tribe currently suing the U.S. government for recognition claims its ancestral lands include “the great valleys of Sonoma and Napa Counties, including Alexander, Knights, and Napa Valleys.”

If a tribe is recognized it is exempt from many local and state laws – notably development laws – on its “trust land.” A federally recognized tribe in Napa Valley would not have to follow the county’s agricultural protection law.

“This is all about a casino. Napa’s the bullseye,” says Rex Stults, government relations director for Napa Valley Vintners. “A (recognized) Indian tribe is a sovereign country. It’s like inviting a foreign nation into the county. Fifty years of observing the agricultural preserve would go right out the window.”

The tribe in question, the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley, is down to 340 living members, according to its website. Its leaders could not be reached for comment on this story.