Deal nears for 2 tribes to run Barstow casinos - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Two Indian tribes are close to signing a gaming compact with the state to allow them to build and jointly operate two casinos on adjoining property here.

It is the first time ever among separate tribes for such an agreement, spokesmen for the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon tribes and the project developer said.

"Were excited, city spokesman John Rader said. "This would be a huge economic boost for Barstow. We hope construction will begin by the end of the year.

Meanwhile a third tribe, the Chemehuevis of Havasu Lake, is making plans to build another casino a quarter-mile away.

The multimillion-dollar casino resorts, which developers say will create thousands of new jobs, are proposed on sites just off Interstate 15 near Barstows two factory outlet malls.

Claims that the state, Big Lagoon and Los Coyotes are close to closing negotiations for a compact could not be confirmed.

"The state generally does not comment on negotiations in progress with Indian tribes until a compact is signed and announced, Vince Sollitto, spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Tuesday.

One of the tribes, the Los Coyotes Band of Mission Indians of San Diego County, previously signed a contract with the City Council. The other tribe, the Big Lagoon Rancherias of Humboldt County, is now negotiating an agreement.

Meanwhile, the Chemehuevis have drawn up a similar agreement to present to the council by Aug. 1.

The three tribes want to operate casino complexes to capture a share of the lucrative gaming market that passes through Barstow on Interstates 15 and 40, bound for southern Nevada casinos. Meanwhile, the city would gain new jobs and a percentage of gaming revenue to help pay for public services.

William Serwer, attorney for Michigan-based developer BarWest Gaming LLC, said acreage near Barstows outlet malls would be co-developed by the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon.

"Its the first time two tribes have worked together, he told the City Council on Monday night. "Each tribe will jointly own and operate the facilities on the same site, entering separate compacts with the state.

Tom Shields, communications director for BarWest, said the proposed $160 million resort would generate 3,700 jobs and annual revenue of $200 million. During the first year, the city would receive $6.4 million.

Two 100-room hotels are planned, plus two casinos containing 50,000 square feet of gaming floor space at each. The complex would attract about 2.5 million visitors annually, Shields said.

BarWest already has acquired 47 acres just south of the Factory Outlet Mall in west Barstow and expects to close escrow July 25 on 60 additional acres nearby.

The City Council signed a municipal service agreement a year ago with the Los Coyotes tribe, setting conditions for a resort. And last week, the council authorized negotiations with the Chemehuevi and Big Lagoon tribes, calling for a final accord by July 31.

The Chemehuevis have said they will invest $186 million in a resort, occupying a 50-acre site about a quarter-mile from the other casinos. The resort, which would create 2,800 new jobs, would generate about $5 million in new revenue for the city.

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