Barstow, a small town in San Bernardino County, Calif. known primarily for being on the way to Las Vegas, may be getting its own casino with two tribes vying to open a gaming property along Interstate-15 (I-15).
Efforts to open a casino in Barstow, which is situated along historic Route 66, have moved in fits and starts over the years and there is brewing competition between the Chemehuevi Tribe and the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians to bring a gaming venue to a 40-acre property along Lenwood Drive.
Chemehuevi Tribe Chairman Charles Jones said in local media interviews that his tribe’s lineage in Southern California can be traced back to the 16th century while the Los Coyotes Band have no ties to the Barstow area and therefore have no legal rights to open a casino there.
For many years public officials had put all their energy and money into getting something for Los Coyotes, when they do not have legal grounds for a casino,” said Jones in an interview with The Victorville Daily Press.
The Los Coyotes Band has also been trying for almost two decades to open a gaming property in Barstow, but that effort appears to have stalled following the publication of an environmental impact study in 2014.
Chemehuevi Tribe’s push for a Barstow gaming property comes as the group is putting the finishing touches on the Havasu Landing Resort and Casino, a venue located on the tribe’s reservation on the California side of Lake Havasu. Lake Havasu City, Ariz. is a popular destination for boating and watersports enthusiasts.
That property will feature a 10,000 square-foot casino with 320 gaming machines, six table games, nearly 50 guestrooms, dining options and a ferry to transport patrons to Lake Havasu City.
Should Chemehuevi Tribe win the rights to develop a casino in Barstow, that would deal blow to the rival Los Coyotes because the latter has been angling for a gaming property there since 2001.
In 2011, Los Coyotes pitched a $160 million Bartsow development project that would include a 57,000-square foot casino, 1,325 slot machines, 57 table games and 100 hotel rooms.
Jones, the Chemehuevi Tribe chairman, likes his group’s chances for beating its rivals to the Bartsow gaming property punch.
“I expect we have an 80% chance of getting the casino completed, maybe in three to five years time,” he told The Victorville Daily Press.
Competing With Vegas
A casino in Barstow could be seen as the latest attempt by California tribes to keep some revenue in the Golden State before gamblers cross the border into Nevada. There are approximately 60 tribal gaming properties in California that account for a combined $8 billion in annual tax revenue for the state.
Two dozen of those casinos are in Southern California, a region that is home to about 60 percent of the state’s population.
Chemehuevi Tribe’s Havasu Landing Resort and Casino is the closest California gaming venue to Las Vegas, but it is off I-40, not I-15. I-15 is the most traveled route to get from Southern California to Sin City. The closest gaming option to I-15 is San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, but even that property requires two freeway changes to get to the 15.