Posted on March 16, 2010
Casino Sparks Debate
Point Molate project sees controversy
Controversy is building as the proposal of a
Las Vegas-style casino resort at Richmond’s Point Molate waterfront
comes closer to fruition.
Along the 500 acres of former naval fuel depot, Richmond City
Council member Nathaniel Bates said that the proposed Indian
casino, shops, restaurants and five-star lodging would provide
the city a much-needed economic boom.
One in five persons under the age of 25 is unemployed in Contra
Costa County, Bates said, and under the plan’s conditions,
70 percent of the 17,000 jobs created as a result of the resort
are prioritized for county residents.
Given that the resort is built, the Guidiville Band of Pomo
Indians has agreed to contribute between $17-$20 million a
year in revenues to Richmond, which will benefit the West Contra
Costa Unified School District, police departments, libraries
and various city services, Bates said.
The development group, Upstream Point Molate, LLC, and the
tribe are taking fiscal responsibility of expending construction,
improving the roads leading into the planned site, any and
all infrastructure needs, as well as making sure that the project
is considerate of its impact on the environment, Bates said.
When residents expressed concern about toxins, as the land
previously served as an old naval project and a landfill, the
main developer, James Levine, is developing ways to remediate
the property, he said. Also, details are being worked to determine
the preservation of historic buildings on the site.
“Though it will cost a billion dollars to build the resort,
it will not cost the taxpayers of Richmond a dime,” Bates said.
“My perspective is that this is a win-win situation for the
city of Richmond.”
There are arguments, however, that the reuse and redevelopment
project by Upstream Point Molate, LLC, presents more problems
to a city that already has one of the highest crime rates in
“It’s really a false vision,” Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin
said. “The impacts of gambling on an urban city have so many
social ills associated with it: more crime, robbery, drugs,
domestic violence, prostitution and of course, gambling addictions.”
Originally moved forward by the Richmond City Council in 2004,
the project’s closing date of transferring land ownership to
Upstream Point Molate, LLC, in January was extended twice,
McLaughlin said. The new deadline is April 30, she said. [emphasis
Though many of the members on the current city council approve
the resort, there are federal guidelines that need to be followed,
Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman said.
As a result, the tribe is currently awaiting the federal government’s
approval to grant the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs
permission to officially purchase the land and continue with
Bates said that despite the fact that this project will take
a long time to complete, he is confident that the city of Richmond
is going to become a prestigious destination for first-class
The tribe will provide its own security on-site and at BART,
which they believe will be a primary mode of transportation
before visitors take a bus, shuttle or other railway systems
to get to the facility.
In addition, the band has also planned a ferry system to provide
access to individuals who are coming from San Francisco.
“Like most projects, unfortunately, it takes a long time,
like planting a fruit tree,” Bates said. “It takes years before
the tree grows, and it takes years before it starts yielding
McLaughlin, who has opposed the project since its initial
proposal, said the city has been “holding onto this bad idea
for too long,” and instead should let the plan expire and focus
on the future of green businesses, such as solar energy research.
“That’s the kind of jobs that are really marked for the current
period of the future, because these are the high performing
jobs that are taking off,” she said. “That is the kind of vision
I would like to see for Richmond.”
Since this complicated process can potentially take several
years to complete, McLaughlin said that it is unrealistic to
think that these jobs, which are essentially “low-paying and
dead end,” would materialize anytime soon. [emphasis added]
“It’s really just a false vision that’s being painted,” she
said. “This kind of business does not even create a positive
product for anyone. It’s taking money from those that can afford
it least and putting it into the hands of the casino owners.”
Dr. Ritterman agreed.
When one uses other urban cities with casinos as a model example,
such as Atlantic City and Foxworth, most of them are not doing
well, he said.
“Point Molate is a beautiful piece of land, and I think we
can find other options to make money in the city,” Ritterman
Based on a poll by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), 67 percent
of respondents said that they do not approve the expansion
of urban casinos, McLaughlin said. [emphasis added]
The council expects further revisions to the resort’s developmental
details before the upcoming April 30 deadline that will serve
the city’s best interests, she said.
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