Thursday, January 17, 2008
Scott MacDonald, a spokesman for Californians for No Unfair Deals, says four ballot measures would allow California’s Indian casinos to house two to three times more slot machines than even the largest casino in Las Vegas.
On Feb. 5, Californians will vote on Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97, the so-called Indian gaming propositions. If passed, each proposition will accomplish virtually the same thing for four Southern California tribes. Prop. 94 would allow the Pechanga tribe to increase the number of slot machines it operates in Riverside County from 2,000 to 7,500. Prop. 95 would allow the same for Riverside County’s Morongo tribe. Prop. 96 would allow San Diego County’s Sycuan tribe to grow from 2,000 to 5,000 slots. Prop. 97 does the same for Riverside County’s Agua Caliente tribe.
MacDonald’s coalition opposes the propositions. He says the agreements, known as compacts, “play favorites by giving a third of the state’s gambling pie to the four wealthiest tribes.” There are 104 other California tribes not included in the propositions. MacDonald says those others could be economically devastated by the enormous growth of just four tribes.
Proponents, though, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say the 17,000 new machines in countless new casinos on tribal lands will create thousands of jobs and mainline billions of dollars directly into the veins of California’s general fund.
Morongo tribal chairman Robert Martin says California can expect to receive $500 million a year for “children whose families can’t afford basic healthcare, senior citizens who are seeing their social services cut back, and schools that need books.”
But a nonpartisan legislative analysis predicts that the new machines will generate far less than the billions promised, and will instead amount to less than 0.5 percent of the state’s entire general fund.
Because California’s tribes are sovereign land, opponents say, the tribes are virtually untouchable by the state, making oversight of what money comes in and what’s ultimately paid out in taxes is impossible to police. The effect the rapid growth will have on local cities’ resources, law enforcement and emergency services, opponents add, is nothing short of incalculable.
Martin counters that the tribes want nothing more than to help, not tap, local economies. “Everyone in California benefits from a strong economy and a well-funded state,” he says.