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With No Role to Play in State Gaming Compact Deal with Chumash, Santa Barbara County Stands Pat

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has negotiated a new tribal gaming compact with the State of California, and Santa Barbara County officials — as they noted Tuesday — were once again left out of the discussions.

According to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office, which agreed to a new contract with the tribe Aug. 26, no counties were invited into negotiations.

Instead, Santa Barbara County found out from a news release the Chumash issued last week, County CEO Mona Miyasato said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Chumash and the state entered into the first gaming compact in 1999, which was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.

This new compact, which gives the state a portion of profits from the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez and outlines a mitigation process for jurisdictions around the Indian reservation, will expire in 2040 once it’s made official later this year.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to receive the staff report but decided against giving any direction on the compact, since it’s such a large document and because the supervisors have had so little time to digest it.

The tribe and Miyasato say the new gaming compact could create the potential for the Chumash and the county to work more closely together, since it stipulates that the tribe must negotiate on a government-to-government basis with the county and enter into an enforceable agreement before any gaming-related projects commence.

Supervisors voted last month to try starting those intergovernmental discussions via a public meeting process.

Miyasato said some other county requests were addressed in the new compact, including a process to ensure mitigation of impacts related to gaming projects and enhanced environmental review that would be followed by arbitration if issues weren’t resolved.

As Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr pointed out, the compact doesn’t explicitly govern projects like a future hotel.

Farr, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley, was disappointed that Brown’s office hadn’t listened to county pleas. She confirmed with staff that the latest Chumash hotel expansion would not be governed by the new compact, but by the 1999 agreement.

“I think that as long as we have processes that are not at least somewhat transparent ... we’re going to continue having these kinds of issues,” she said.

The compact did not provide local jurisdictions with authority over water, sewer, fire, food and building inspections, and staff was still evaluating the funding distribution formula to determine economic impacts.

The new deal retains a Special Distribution Fund and provides for a new revenue-sharing trust fund that allows the tribe to make payments to the county and local jurisdictions for specified purposes as credit toward the fund.

According to the compact, the tribe will pay 6 percent of net winnings from operations to the state gaming agency for use in that fund.

“It’s unreasonable that we’d process it this fast,” Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam said, making a motion and asking staff to continue monitoring the compact process.

An informal hearing on the compact was hosted Tuesday by committees of the Assembly and state Senate, and the Legislature on Thursday ratified the compact under AB 1540.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, voted for the compact. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, did not vote.

The deal now goes back to state officials and then the Interior Department for review and formal acceptance.

In the tribe’s news release last week, tribal chairman Vincent Armenta called signing the compact historic and exciting.

“The new compact allows us to continue on our path of economic self-sufficiency,” he said in a statement. “Our economic development initiatives have brought vital services to our tribe, from health care and education to cultural and environmental programs.

“This is a good compact not just for the tribe but for the entire community. The prosperous tribal economy has and will continue to be a boon to the local economy.”

The Chumash Casino Resort gaming operations generated nearly $255 million in economic activity statewide in 2012, the tribe said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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