A bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would keep a North Bay Indian tribe from expanding its San Pablo casino, while ensuring that the tribe can keep profiting from more than 1,000 electronic bingo machines there, cleared a key committee Thursday in a unanimous vote.

For years, Feinstein fought in vain to reverse an act of Congress that granted the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians the rights to run an Indian casino on nine acres near Interstate 80 that had housed the Casino San Pablo card club.

That act, shepherded in 2000 by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, paved the way for the tribe's deal with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 for a mega-casino with as many as 5,000 slot machines, more than any casino this side of Connecticut.

The Legislature stalled that deal, along with a revised pact for a casino half that size. The tribe opted instead, at least in the short term, for bingo-related devices that mimic slot machines and require no state approval, and no revenue-sharing with the state.

Feinstein's compromise bill, which would lock in the status quo, has drawn support from the tribe and some of the casino's staunchest critics, including Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. Opposition remains from the East Bay Coalition Against Urban Casinos, a local group funded by a few Bay Area card clubs.

The bill also has support from long-beleaguered San Pablo, which receives about $12 million annually from casino revenues -- three-quarters of its general fund.


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The bill will likely be included in a larger package of bills for a full Senate vote, said Feinstein spokesman Scott Gerber.

Reach John Simerman at 925-943-8072 or jsimerman@bayareanewsgroup.com.