A Lodi man who was adopted into an American Indian tribe is looking to open a 20,000 square-foot "full bore" casino with slots, poker, blackjack and table games in Flag City west of Lodi.
Those casino plans, however, would first have to be approved by San Joaquin County officials and the governor's office -- and one county supervisor is already speaking out against the project.
William Bill, 45, said he is the Tribal Chief of the Winnemucca Indian Colony, which has its tribal lands in Winnemucca, Nev. He said he was born and raised in Stockton and now wants to give something back to the region.
"We're not the money-hungry type," he said by phone on Tuesday. "We just want to economically develop and help tribal members and the community."
Bill said he was became a member of the tribe, which consists of 77 other members, when he was adopted by his Shoshone father.
As he envisions it, the casino would employ 400 people and be built on 18 vacant acres located near the Arco AM/PM gas station on Flag City Boulevard. He said it would cost about $30 million and he has five potential investors whom he would not name.
He said he would give a 5 percent cut of the casino's revenue to the city of Lodi and San Joaquin County and fund health clinics for American Indians on the tribe's land in Nevada.
Bill laid out his proposal in a letter he sent to the city of Lodi and the county. His tribe has an office in Stockton, and is listed as one of the tribes recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. A call to the bureau's Western Nevada office superintendent went unreturned Tuesday.
In addition to his work as tribal chief, Bill said he is the CEO of Native American productions, a company that helps people trace their American Indian roots and provides consulting for other tribes.
Prior to that, Bill said he was a local race car driver, worked at the former Lucky's store in Lodi and also served as a corrections officer and search and rescue team member for the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.
He said his tribe has the right to develop a casino in San Joaquin County because of its 1863 treaty with the U.S. Government that gives them control over land in California.
Bill said in addition to standard games of chance, he also envisions Great Basin Casino -- as he would call it -- featuring a hotel, water slides and ice skating rink.
Flag City is under the jurisdiction of the county, which would make the final decision on approving any casino plans.
Kerry Sullivan, director of the San Joaquin County Community Development Department, said she has seen no applications for a casino. She said if the casino is built it would be the first for San Joaquin County.
A casino is something Jack Sieglock, Lodi's representative on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, said he is firmly opposed to.
Sieglock said he's read Bill's letter and at the board's meeting Tuesday called on the county's attorney and administrator to look into what they could do to keep a casino from being built in Flag City.
"I don't think you have to have everything in your backyard," Sieglock said, adding that he has enjoyed gambling, but in the state of Nevada where he thinks it belongs.
Sieglock said gambling often comes with the problems of drugs, prostitution, driving under the influence and often lures those "who can least afford it."
He said he's not sure what the county can do to block a casino, but said he's hoping the county's administration will soon have those answers so Bill can not take another step in bringing his casino any closer to being built.
Lodi Mayor John Beckman, however, said he can see both sides of the poker chip when it comes to an area casino.
"I'm open to hearing both sides of the argument," he said.
On one hand, Beckman said a casino would put the vice of gambling extremely close to the city of Lodi and its residents and it may clash with the attempts of the city to market itself as a wine-tourism destination.
"Gambling is a vice and anything along those lines can be taken out of hand and be very destructive," he said.
But a casino located at the junction of Highway 12 and Interstate 5, near Highway 99 would likely bring many more visitors to Lodi, which would be located in the middle. Beckman also said he would like to see the city have some say on whether or not a casino resort is built about 8 miles west of Lodi.
"A very good reason to get Flag City hooked up to our sewer plant is to give us a voice to what happens out there," he said.
Beckman said he would imagine that if the casino developer wants to build in Flag City they will likely need extra sewer capacity, and that's were Lodi could step in on the issue.
He said he isn't already predisposed to one side or another on casino plans though.
Lodi City Manager Blair King said he did not know much about the proposal and didn't have any comments on the idea, but he did say a casino has never been envisioned as part of the city's economic development plans.
Bill said he's confident that local officials will see the merits of his project and give it backing so he can take it to the Governor's office.
If he can get approval there and hammer out a "compact" agreement for how much of the casino's revenues go to the state, Bill said he could have a casino opened soon..
Once he has approval, Bill said he could use "sprung structures," or heavy-duty temporary buildings that can be erected in less than a month to open the casino's doors by September or October.
He said he decided to seek economic opportunities in California after falling gold prices shut down several of the mines in the tribe's ancestral lands in Nevada. That in turn forced the closure of the tribes two smoke shops and fertilizer company in 1995 sending the tribe members looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Bill said members of his family have worked in the casino industry before, but this would be the first time the tribe had its own casino. He added that he envisons the casino to be a unionized workplace.
Contact reporter Andrew Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.