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Supreme Court ruling impacts Richmond Indian casinos

March 10, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the Secretary of the Interior has no authority to place land into trust for Indian tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934. Their decision is based on the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 that authorizes the Secretary to take land into trust for members of tribes that are “now under Federal jurisdiction.”

The transfer of land into federal trust is the basic prerequisite before building an Indian casino. Land in trust is sovereign and exempt from state taxation and jurisdiction. Therefore, the court ruling is a major roadblock to tribes recognized after 1934, which are planning casinos.

This ruling impacts two tribes planning to build casinos in Richmond. The Scotts Valley Pomos plan to build the Sugar Bowl casino in North Richmond and the Guidiville Rancheria Pomos plan a $1.5 billion resort at Point Molate.

Both tribes were federally recognized in 1934. However, both tribes later lost their recognition after Congress passed the California Rancheria Act in 1958. Following that both tribes lost all or most of their land.

The Guidivilles tribe was restored in 1986. Full recognition was granted in 1992 along with 44 acres near Ukiah. The Scotts Valley Pomos were restored in 1991 without any land grant resulting in the loss of its rancheria status the following year. The tribe is now formally known as the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians of the Sugar Bowl Rancheria.

The granting, removal, and restoration of federal recognitions may or may not impact the status of the East Bay casinos. James D. Levine, the developer for the Point Molate project, said his lawyers have reviewed the ruling and believe it poses no threat to their plans.

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