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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 27th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 51 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 51

Locals say they plan to appeal the expansion of Chumash Casino's liquor license

BY AMY ASMAN

Some Santa Ynez Valley residents have banded together with a goal to appeal an administrative law judge’s decision to grant the Chumash Casino and Resort an expanded liquor license.

Up until now, the casino has had two separate liquor licenses—one for The Willows restaurant and one for the hotel. If approved, the expansion would allow the sale of alcohol in the Creekside Buffet, the hotel spa, and the Salama Showroom room when it’s being used for sit-down meals.

In an e-mail to the Sun, James Marino, the group’s legal representative, alleged that the number of incidents involving alcohol and drugs at the casino are “significantly understated” because the management staff chooses to handle many of them in-house rather than contact local law enforcement.

Marino also claimed that the report from which the judge made his decision was inadequate because the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) employee who investigated the case failed to review the casino’s incident log. Detailed security logs are mandated under the California Gaming Compacts.

The ABC investigator, Robert Olshaskie, told the court during a hearing last fall that he didn’t ask to see the log. ABC supervisor Leslie Pond told the Sun investigators aren’t required to view the incident logs when determining whether a license should be granted.

In his testimony, Olshaskie told the court that representatives from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol Office felt the amount of police activity at the casino was proportionate to the number of people who frequent it.

Additionally, Olshaskie said, a representative with the Sheriff’s Department told him she was unaware of the casino underreporting incidents to law enforcement.

According to the report, there have been no ABC disciplinary actions since the casino received its interim license in 2010. Additionally, the report found that issuing the interim permit didn’t have a significant impact on crime rates at the casino or the hotel.

The administrative law judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to support claims that the expansion would generate more crime or cause more problems for local law enforcement.

In a press release sent out after the ruling, ABC officials acknowledged that more people will come to the casino as a result of the expanded liquor license, and they called on casino staff to be vigilant in checking IDs and keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors.

When asked to comment on the prospect of an appeal, Sam Cohen, the tribe’s legal and government affairs specialist, wrote in an e-mail to the Sun, “The decision itself says there have been no adverse effects during the more than one-year period in which the Chumash Casino Resort has been operating under the interim retail permit.

“The decision, however, is subject to an appeal to the ABC appeals board within 40 days of the issuance of the final decision. The tribe does not believe that an appeal is warranted, however, we have no control over our critics,” he said.

As of press time, Marino had not reported to the Sun any official filing of an appeal.