New Soboba Casino Restaurants

The Soboba Indian tribe's proposal to annex more than 500 acres and build a new casino-hotel near their existing gambling complex has some San Jacinto residents worried their neighborhoods could be swallowed into a zone devoid of public services. By The Temecula Valley News

Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City opened to the public on Tuesday, Nov. 24, according to the casino’s social media accounts. Just after 8 p.m. The casino’s Twitter account featured a message.

The Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians already operates the Soboba Casino -with ``2,000 slot machines, over 20 table games, two restaurants, a 12,000-seat entertainment pavilion and one huge sports lounge' - on its reservation about a mile from the proposed development, according to information on the. Soboba Casino Resort near San Jacinto recently announced that it was removing some seating from its restaurants and closing another at its adjacent golf resort to increase physical distancing.

SAN JACINTO - The Soboba Indian tribe's proposal to annex more than500 acres and build a new casino-hotel near their existing gamblingcomplex has some San Jacinto residents worried their neighborhoodscould be swallowed into a zone devoid of public services.

And recent shootouts between local sheriff's deputiesand alleged criminals hiding on the Soboba reservation have apparentlygiven residents concern. At one point last year, a union representingRiverside County sheriff's deputies declared the reservation and itsexisting casino unsafe.

'We've done a lot of extensive study on this, andeverywhere they put a casino in the crime rate goes up and thecommunity goes downhill,' David Christian, a member of a group calledSave Our Communities, told City News Service today.

'Like the one in San Bernardino. That neighborhoodturned into a ghetto, just about. It's not the neighborhood it used tobe.'

Tribal leaders and gambling promoters told theRiverside Press-Enterprise that the new complex would create more jobsand boost the local economy. Soboba tribal officials could notimmediately be reached for additional comment today.

The Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians already operates theSoboba Casino --with ``2,000 slot machines, over 20 table games, tworestaurants, a 12,000-seat entertainment pavilion and one huge sportslounge' -- on its reservation about a mile from the proposeddevelopment, according to information on the

tribe's casino Web site ``Soboba Casino -- Where Winning is Just the Beginning.'

Now the tribe wants to annex non-reservation land that it owns alongSoboba Road near Lake Park Drive into federal ``fee to trust' status,adding to the more than 3,000-acre reservation, the Press-Enterprisereported today.

In trust, the land is held by the U.S. government onbehalf of the tribe, while the tribe controls the land's use, thePress-Enterprise reported.

The proposed 729,500-square-foot casino-hotel complexwould include a 300-room hotel, casino, restaurants, convention center,events arena, retail establishments and a parking structure, thePress-Enterprise reported.

If the annexation goes through, residents of threeneighborhoods --Soboba Springs Mobile Estates, a housing developmentadjacent to the Country Club at Soboba golf course, and a hillsideneighborhood -- would have to travel through the reservation to get totheir homes in the city of San Jacinto, the

Press-Enterprise reported.

A Bureau ofIndian Affairs public hearing is scheduled Wednesday at the HemetPublic Library. The bureau will accept written comments about theproposed development until Sept. 15.

'The key issue is the ownership transfer of U.S. landto tribal land, which would isolate us,' Tish Arciniega, anothermember of Save Our Communities, told CNS. ``It will create islands. Wewill be embedded in the reservation. We will be surrounded by triballands.'


Asked about possible public safety concerns, Arciniega referred the topic to public safety agencies and returned to the issue of land ownership transfer.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department has had disputes with Sobobaleaders about public safety and access on the Soboba reservation in therecent past. The tribe and the Sheriff's Department have also engagedin summit discussions and found ways to cooperate.

A Sheriff's Department spokeswoman today referredquestions about the proposed land annex and casino-hotel complex tosheriff's administration officials.

The Soboba tribal response to public concern about thenew gambling complex has been restrained, and a tribal lawyer describedit as a relocation of the casino with no expansion of gaming, thePress-Enterprise reported.

``The fee to trust application is a government togovernment transaction, that involves and considers the public throughthe public comment phase, ' Mike Hiles, Soboba tribal informationofficer, said in a written statement cited by the Press-Enterprise.``This critical component of the process provides for all publicconcerns . . . to be identified so that they may be considered in theFinal (environmental impact statement). The tribe remains committed tothis process.'

Back in the neighborhoods that could be affected byannexation and a new casino-hotel complex, Christian said gamblingtraffic is already a problem in the area where he and Arciniega live,north of the existing casino and off Soboba Road.

'There are three senior communities up here and whenthere's functions going on at the casino, an ambulance can't get in.They have to send a helicopter,' Christian told CNS. ``That's with theexisting casino. If they build another one it's going to be worse.'

If the land in question gets deeded to the Sobobatribe, Christian said he and his neighbors should no longer have to paytaxes.

'We should be exempt from all city, state and federaltaxes, because they won't be able to service us any more,' Christiansaid.

Loren Pratt, another concerned resident, saidannexation would remove property from government tax roles, while aresort would lure visitors who would have an impact on roads andservices, the Press-Enterprise reported.

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Pratt also said visitors may bypass non-Indian businesses and spend their money at the Soboba complex.

But a draft environmental report on the development suggests it wouldcreate jobs, and employees would live and spend money in the valley,the Press-Enterprise reported.

Wednesday's hearing and all written comments will beaddressed in a federal final environmental impact statement, thePress-Enterprise reported, citing information from Patrick O'Mallan,environmental protection specialist with the Bureau of Indian Affairs'Sacramento regional office. The final

environmental impact statement may not be ready until next year, the Press-Enterprise reported.

A regional BIA director will make a recommendation to Larry Echo Hawk,the U.S. Department of the Interior's assistant secretary of Indianaffairs, who will make the decision about the land annexation,according to O'Mallan.

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