Mayor says project has 1,000 jobs
Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/27/2011 10:14:20 PM PDT
BARSTOW – A proposed $160 million casino will alleviate high unemployment, a high rate of welfare and high poverty level, Mayor Joe Gomez said Wednesday night at a public hearing hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
More than 300 residents attended the forum in the gymnasium of Barstow Community College.
Gomez said the casino and its more than 1,000 jobs would help combat the chronic poverty in the city of 22,000, where 47 percent get some form of welfare.
Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians, whose reservation is in Northern San Diego County, have teamed with Detroit-based BarWest Gaming Inc. to build a casino and 100-room hotel on 23 acres.
Sean Fowler, the CEO of Barstow Community Hospital, said the casino would provide health insurance for some 4,000 Barstow residents – a needed asset in this poor community.
Joe Brady, a commercial real estate broker in Victorville who maintains offices in Barstow, said the casino is perhaps the last hope for Barstow to end a string of “broken promises” – projects that are talked about for Barstow but never happen.
The casino project with BarWest has been in the works for 10 years.
One of the largest challenges facing the casino is getting permission to put the 23-acre site into a trust held by the federal government because the site is not on the reservation.
Several Indian tribal groups spoke out against the proposed 57,000-square-foot casino, which would have 1,325 slot machines, 57 game tables, conference and meeting room space and dinning options.
Charles F. Wood, the chairman of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe in Havasu Lake, said his group is opposed to tribes operating outside their ancestral homeland.
Some 10 years ago, the Chemehuevi, which at one time were throughout what is now San Bernardino County, were also planning a casino in Barstow.
Due to changes in BIA regulations, the Chemehuevi proposal was terminated, as was the one for Los Coyotes.
But the Los Coyotes group refiled its application under new guidelines.
In an interview, Wood said his tribe would be refiling its application shortly.
Morris Reid, on the tribal council of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians in Coarsegold, near Fresno, said his group was against tribes starting casinos off their reservations.
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