Casino backers disclose details - Friday 12th of August 2005

The proponents of a resort with two casinos have disclosed more details of agreements they say they have negotiated with the state.

Tom Shields, a spokesman for BarWest LLC, said Friday that compacts the Los Coyotes Band of Indians and Big Lagoon Rancheria have negotiated with Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers administration would last for 20 years.

A gaming compact is one of the requirements to operate an Indian casino.

BarWest hopes to build a resort along Lenwood Road in south Barstow with one casino for the Los Coyotes and one for Big Lagoon.

Shields said that his team has been planning the project with the expectation that each tribe will start out with 1,250 slot machines, and have the right to expand to offer more slots.

The number of slots allowed for expansion could be roughly twice what the tribes would start with, based on information Big Lagoons chairman gave in a Copley News Service report Friday.

The compacts for each tribe are similar, but the one for Big Lagoon includes a settlement agreement for the tribes litigation with the state, Shields said.

Big Lagoons lawsuit against the state stems from a dispute over whether the tribe should be able to build a casino on reservation land it has next to the lagoon it gets its name from. There have been environmental concerns with building at that site, which is in a sequoia forest.

Project representatives had already announced at a July 18 City Council meeting that they had successfully completed negotiations with the state and expected to receive compacts soon.

At that time, there were no points left to negotiate, and since then all thats happened is attorneys "dotting is and crossing ts," Shields said.

The governors office has not made any announcement about the compacts yet. The agreements wont be official until the governor signs them.

"We have finalized the details, and we are awaiting the governors announcement," Shields said.

On Friday, Schwarzenegger spokesman Vince Sollitto wouldnt confirm that the compacts were ready to be announced, but did confirm that the state has been negotiating agreements with the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon.

In the past, the governors office has declined to reveal that talks were underway.

"The state has been in negotiations with those tribes," Sollitto said, "in order to resolve the issue of how to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Big Lagoon, while still recognizing that tribes federally granted rights, as well as address the city of Barstows desire for a facility to bring increased economic activity to the locale."

Officials with Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

If the governor announces compact agreements with the tribes, the next step will be for the state legislature to ratify them.

The tribes will also need to get the land for the casinos taken into trust by the Interior Department. Without approval from the secretary of the Interior, the project cannot happen.

A tribe from Lake Havasu, the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, is also pursuing plans for a casino in Barstow with a developer, Barstow Enterprises LLC. That group would also need the same federal and state approvals as the other tribes.

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