Chumash Cash In on Chumps

Building on the Wages of Gambling

<b>TOWERING:</b> As shown in this artist’s rendering, 12 stories of casino resort will grow on the Chumash reservation with the profits from gambling.
Courtesy Photo

PARADISE LOST? On a clear day in the Santa Ynez Valley, you’ll be able to see the new 12-story Chumash casino, where work is due to begin this month.

Even on a hazy day, the multimillion-dollar casino expansion, parking garage, and 215-room tower will loom over the bucolic valley like a transplanted Las Vegas high-rise.

Where, you might ask, will the small Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians get a hundred million bucks? Well, the same place they got $40 million to buy Fess Parker’s 1,400-acre Camp 4 property down the road a piece in 2010 ​— ​from the suckers who flock in to gamble.

Barney Brantingham

They roar up San Marcos Pass, ignoring the deadly, well-known hazards of the drive, in search of the supposed thrills of gaming. Some of the chumps will walk out clutching winnings, but for the most part, they’ll drop major money into happy Chumash hands.

Many take great issue with the 12-story tower plan ​— ​including the County Board of Supervisors majority, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, numerous public agencies, and outraged valley residents. Eyesore or cash cow, or both?

But the Chumash, citing their right as a sovereign nation to ignore such speed bumps as zoning and Planning Commission review, are going right ahead. (Santa Barbara’s Granada Theatre is nine stories.)

They’re also fighting to annex Camp 4 to the reservation and want to build 143 homes there for members of the tribe and descendants.

A few decades ago, the Chumash were fighting poverty, living on a rutted patch of land. Then someone noticed that other California tribes were building casinos and reaping rich harvests. So the Santa Ynez Band decided to do the same. It hit rich pay dirt.

At some point, winners at the gambling tables will be able to take a swim in the rooftop pool, swill a drink, and admire the view. Losers will hop back in the car, dream on about winning “next time,” and take their chances on surviving Highway 154.

County supervisors voted last week, 3-2, to continue opposing the project and seek a meeting with Governor Jerry Brown.

DR. BLU-RAY: Shuji Nakamura, USCB’s newest Nobel laureate, not only helped give the world LED light, but he also won an $8 million battle with a former employer in Japan. After he left Nichia Corporation, a chemicals company, to join UCSB in 2000, Nichia sued Nakamura, claiming infringement on trade secrets. He countersued, claiming that he was only paid a measly $200 for his invention. Result: Nichia ended up paying him $8.1 million.

COURT STRIKES OUT: Baseball has its infield fly rule; the Founding Fathers (no Founding Mothers being allowed in the Clubhouse at that time) had their Electoral College and Supreme Court.

All, except perhaps for the infield fly rule, which only about 20 people outside the hallowed diamonds of America understand anyway, have long been the targets of reformers.

The latest Supreme Court critic to hit Santa Barbara is Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine law school. The author of the new book The Case Against the Supreme Court will throw out some far-reaching reforms when he speaks at UCSB on October 27 at 8 p.m. at Campbell Hall. It’s free.

Critics consider the High Court an elitist priesthood dominated by unelected, elderly Ivy League lawyers, all from either Harvard or Yale (Chemerinsky went to Harvard Law School) and seemingly isolated from and unaware of the trials and tribulations everyday citizens face on a daily basis.

Chemerinsky’s reforms include term limits, a merit system of appointment, better communication with the public, and TV coverage of its sessions.

WOLFGANG, ETC.: Amadeus, which just opened at Santa Barbara’s New Vic by Ensemble Theatre Company, is imaginatively staged and beautifully directed by Jonathan Fox, the company’s artistic director. Peter Shaffer’s play takes broad liberties with composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s turbulent life, and your eye is always on arch-villain Antonio Salieri. (Through Sunday, October 26.)

S.B. LOVES HIM: Tony Bennett, his recent Granada concert canceled due to a power blackout, returned in triumph Sunday night and conquered an adoring, sold-out house. Bennett’s 88-year-old voice sounded great as he hit the high notes singing mostly beloved standards. (Thanks to UCSB Arts & Lectures for bringing him back.)

HARPING ON BACH: You’ve probably never heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue performed on a solo harp, but Bridget Kibbey pulled it off nicely last Thursday night with Camerata Pacifica, striking just the right chord(s).


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