Flash: WARNING: APRIL FOOl!!! Breaking News - Feds Kabosh Point Molate Casino!

By Tom Butt, Richmond Councilmember
Friday April 01, 2011 - 09:52:00 AM

With a critical April 5 vote less than a week away, a convoluted and fast moving chain of events involving a trio of federal agencies has apparently terminated the more than six year odyssey intended to turn Point Molate into an Indian casino anchoring a destination resort. A deal was reached at 12:01 AM today, EDT, among all parties for an unprecedented land swap that will end the casino project forever. In the creative new plan, the Department of Agriculture will exchange approximately 2,600 acres in the Mendocino National Forest to the Guidiville Band of the Pomo Indians, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and investors in Upstream Point Molate LLC for their rights under the Land Development Agreement for Point Molate. Point Molate will then be conveyed by the City of Richmond to the National Park Service, which will set up an operational and development plan similar to The Presidio Trust

Mendocino National Forest 

The plan was negotiated by an obscure and secretive Interior Department employee, Marvin Wardlow, who has been largely responsible for successfully acquiring thousands of acres of old growth redwoods on the northern California coast over the last dozen years. Rumor has it that Wardlow’s orders came directly from the White House. 

Congressman George Miller set the linchpin of the plan by quietly slipping last minute enabling language into a continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government for the next three weeks. 


Senator Dianne Feinstein, an avowed opponent of urban gaming, carried the measure in the Senate. 


Both the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are under Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, which made some of the internal wrangling manageable Bringing in Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is responsible for the U.S. Forest Service, was the third leg of the challenging but successful plan, which reportedly had the full support of the White House. The City of Richmond will retain an economic interest by becoming a partner in the new Point Molate Trust, but it is yet unclear whether the National Park Service’s interests will be managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area or Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. 


The no cash deal will cost the government nothing but a few trees and will provide a fair reimbursement for the two tribes and other investors that have poured at least $15 million into Point Molate since 2004.

Facing an adverse vote from a City Council that has seismically shifted in its support for the casino since 2004, Jim Levine and John Salmon of Upstream Point Molate, LLC, appeared happy to be able to salvage their investment and emerge financially intact. The two Indian tribes embraced the prospect of ranch and timberland in the Mendocino National Forest with alacrity because of opportunities for healthy outdoor jobs in ranching and logging instead of cleaning toilets and dealing cards. When asked about the opportunity for other cash crops popular in the region, Michael Derry, CEO of the Guidiville Indian Rancheria, just smiled. 

A relieved Jim Levine, lead spokesman for Upstream Point Molate, LLC, summed it up: “After Measure U passed in November and Corky and Jovanka replaced Maria and Myrna, we knew the odds were stacked against us. We were prepared to bet the house in litigation, but who knows what the outcome would have been? Seven [years] may turn out to be our lucky number after all.” 

Not everyone was happy, particularly Councilmember Nat Bates who complained, “This is a travesty for American taxpayers. The government gave Point Molate to the City of Richmond. Now they are buying it back? How stupid is that?” 

Jim Rogers, who had gambled on the Point Molate casino to dramatically relieve Richmond’s double-digit unemployment and launch his political future into orbit, was philosophical. “Maybe there is a place in Point Molate for my Greenprint project now.” If we can’t make work for Richmond residents in the casino, maybe we can train them for green jobs.”

Norman LaForce of the Sierra Club and Robert Cheasty of Citizens for Eastshore Parks bore the longest faces as they watched the potential $40 million from Upstream vanish into thin air. The money was part of a litigation settlement that bought support of the environmental groups for the casino with the money to be delivered only on opening day. “Do you realize what it would take to make that much money in Sierra Club dues?” asked LaForce. “At $15 a pop, we would have to sign up 2.6 million new members. Where in the world would we find all those people?” 

County Supervisor John Gioia was also shocked as he watched the County’s $12 million bonus for casino opening disappear before his very eyes. “You know,” he sighed, “it was just paper and it was, after all, a crap shoot. Easy come --- easy go. Maybe we can make it up if the Scotts Valley casino on the Parkway comes back to life.”

Gayle McLaughlin and Jeff Ritterman, who had never supported the casino, were just relieved the struggle was over without litigation. “Now we can get on with our alternate plan for windmills, solar collectors, tidal energy generators, vegetable gardens, open space, and an academy to teach our youth how to be artists, vegetarian chefs and yoga instructors.”

Probably most disappointed was the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. “We staked our very reputation on this project,” pleaded spokesman Tom Waller, “ and Obama sold it out from under us? This will not stand!”

Chevron had no comment, but the distant popping of some kind of corks, possibly from beakers containing petroleum samples, could be heard from San Ramon.

The San Pablo City Council, which depends on Casino San Pablo for two-thirds of the City’s general fund, was ecstatic. “If Point Molate had been successful,” said Mayor Genoveva Galloway, “it would have been the end of San Pablo as we know it. This is so exciting, I am declaring a City holiday!” 

Jovanka Beckles, who has recently surprised Council watchers with her insightful unpredictability, looked thoughtfully into the distance and then blurted, “April Fool!”