Napa Valley Vintners is sounding the alarm that an Indian tribe and a Las Vegas company will be seeking to open a casino in Napa, Solano or Sonoma counties.
The trade group has obtained what it calls a confidential preliminary agreement between the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians and Integrated Resort Development LLC. The term sheet calls for establishing a gaming enterprise in one of the three counties, with a site to be selected this year.
This development has set off alarm bells in Napa County, which has a history of vigorously opposing the prospect of Indian gambling that might circumvent local land use restrictions and threaten the Agricultural Preserve.
If a tribe buys land and has it placed in trust by the U.S. Department of the Interior, it can develop the land without being subject to local land use laws.
Napa Valley Vintners has invited local wine and agricultural representatives, select residents and other groups to a 10 a.m. Friday meeting to discuss the casino threat. County leaders are to give a briefing on Indian casinos, Napa Valley Vintners spokesman Rex Stults said Thursday afternoon.
Supervisor Mark Luce said the apparent plans of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians for a North Bay casino may be more threatening to Napa County than past threats. Unlike the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley, which has a tribal recognition suit pending in federal court, the Scotts Valley group is a recognized tribe, he said.
“I see it as a real threat to our sovereignity as California citizens,” Luce said.
Rob Ottone, tribal administrator for the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, said Thursday afternoon that he had no information on the apparent term sheet. He’ll have to talk with the tribal council before he can answer questions on the issue, he said.
The apparent term sheet copy obtained by the vintners group is signed by tribal council chairman Gabriel Ray, though not by an Integrated Resort Development official. The term sheet says that its contents are to be kept confidential.
“It was given to us by an anonymous source, but somebody who understands this is a matter of urgent and upmost importance to us,” Stults said.
Napa Valley Vintners is offering to match money up to $100,000 to help fend off casinos. Once $100,000 is raised and matched, the group would contribute another $100,000, Stults said.
“We welcome anybody to be friends and neighbors in our community who are willing to legally and lawfully abide by the rigid set of land use laws that have allowed Napa Valley to become what it’s become,” Stults said.
That includes abiding by Measures J and its successor Measure P, he said. Measure P requires voter approval for agricultural land to be changed to some other land use.
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“The Napa Valley is not a blue-light special at Kmart,” Stults said.
Officials with Integrated Resort Development LLC couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.
Records with the Nevada Secretary of State creating Integrated Resort Development LLC are dated March 11. Paul C. Steelman is listed as a managing member.
Steelman is a member of Steelman Partners in Las Vegas. Among the many projects listed on the firm’s website are Grand Palm Casino in Botswana, Desert Inn in Las Vegas and Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California. Thunder Valley is owned by the United Auburn Indian Community.
The apparent term sheet calls for narrowing potential sites to two to three within 45 days of executing the document. It calls for negotiating an option agreement to buy the property within 80 days. It calls for preparing a land-to-trust request within 120 days.
In addition, the document calls for seeking preliminary sign-offs where possible from local government officials pledging support for a gaming enterprise at the selected site.
The tribal government is to receive a $100,000 upfront payment, the term sheet says. The investor is to receive 12 percent of the casino’s net win proceeds for 72 months.
Several county supervisors said they learned of the latest casino threat Wednesday from the Napa County Counsel’s office. This is another example of Las Vegas gambling interests “casino reservation shopping,” Supervisor Keith Caldwell said Thursday.
The Scotts Valley tribe isn’t the first to want to tap into the Napa Valley’s rich vein of tourists, Caldwell said. He noted that the Litton band of Pomo Indians tried to build a casino in American Canyon in the 1990s after obtaining tribal status from the federal government.
Community groups rose up to oppose the casino, citing fears of crime. The tribe pulled out before the proposal came to a vote of the American Canyon City Council.
The Litton band went on to buy a card room in San Pablo overlooking Interstate 80 where they operate today. The intended casino site in American Canyon is now the home of the Walmart Supercenter.
In 2013, county officials reacted with concern when the Litton band, which is based in Sonoma County, extended a $9 million loan to Madison Vineyard Holdings LLC, the company that owns the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. Tribal leaders said that this was purely a real estate investment.
City editor Kevin Courtney contributed to this report.