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Wine Spectator: A Casino in Napa Wine Country?

July 14, 2014

Three million visitors come to Napa every year to enjoy great wine, food and gorgeous scenery. But some vintners are worried a casino may join the landscape, and the issue has created a bitter legal and public relations battle.

A group of Native Americans, the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley, filed a federal lawsuit in 2009 asking for recognition of their tribal status. The case has dragged through the courts since. If the tribe wins, it would become a sovereign nation, and any lands they purchase or are granted by the federal government would be exempt from local land-use and zoning restrictions.

“We’re an environmentally conscious community,” said vintner Janet Viader of Viader Vineyards. “(A casino) would destroy everything that we’ve been trying to protect in Napa Valley.” Motions to dismiss the Wappo’s claim have been denied.

Tribal leaders say there are no plans yet for developing any land they gain. But in recent years, when a tribe acquires land, a casino frequently follows. There are now more than 60 Native American-owned casinos in California.

Vintners point out that the tribe has partnered with known casino backers to finance and advise them on the lawsuit, including Nigel White, a CPA with extensive experience helping gaming companies plan and develop casinos. Wine Spectator has the full story here.

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