Making the case against Indian casino

They may be on the other side of the state line, but El Dorado County supervisors are on the right side in their court battle against a proposed Indian casino.

The Miwok tribe is planning a 381,000 square-foot casino with a 250-room hotel off Highway 50 at Shingle Springs, between Sacramento and Placerville. The plan is to suck up gamblers before they can make their way to Stateline and the casino corridor on the Nevada side.

The economic threat to South Lake Tahoe's tourist economy is obvious, yet it's still startling to see the size of some of these Indian casinos being planned. As El Dorado supervisors pointed out recently, the compact between tribes and the state of California allow casinos 25 percent larger than anything now existing at Stateline.

An economic study indicates the South Shore could lose 20 percent of its jobs and $45 million annually.

Cries of business hardship will never carry the day in court, however.

The El Dorado supervisors, who vow to "do whatever we can to prevent the casino from being built," are basing their case on environmental impacts of the Miwok development. On such issues, as many a developer knows, are lawsuits won and lost.

Nevertheless, the true impacts on El Dorado County will be from the added burden of services -- and the lack of local tax dollars generated by development on tribal lands. The supervisors estimate a private development of that size would mean $2.8 million a year in property tax.

We can hardly begrudge California Indian tribes an opportunity to make money the old-fashioned way -- through free enterprise. But the Indian Gaming Commission, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Interior -- the government agencies named in El Dorado County's lawsuit -- have given new meaning to the term.

The playing field isn't level, and hardships will be afflicted on many residents as a result. That the lawsuit may be decided on environmental factors will be ironic, because the human environment will be most affected.


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