Skip to comments.CA: Bill would let tribes expand casinos without negotiation (SB 1201 - 'an issue of fairness')
Posted on 02/15/2008 12:06:57 PM PST by NormsRevenge
PALM SPRINGS A state senator has introduced legislation that would enable a large group of Indian tribes to expand existing casinos or build large new ones without further negotiations with the state.
Sen. Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert, said his proposal would allow all 61 tribes that negotiated gambling agreements, or compacts, with former Gov. Gray Davis in 1999 to have up to 2,000 slots each, the number many tribes believe were promised by the deals. But the California Gambling Control Commission had voted to limit all tribes in the state to roughly 60,000 slots, based on the commission's interpretation of a complex formula in the agreements.
An aide to Battin said the legislation could affect 50 tribes but added that only 15 indicated they wanted more slots.
In San Diego County, the bill would help the Rincon, San Pasqual and Jamul tribes, all of whom have been frustrated in their inability to secure authorization to operate 2,000 slots.
The measure, SB 1201, also could foster expansion by other outlying tribes, such as Campo, that have substantially fewer than 2,000 slots.
There are tribes around that have '99 compacts that can't get any machines, Battin said at the Western Indian Gaming Conference in Palm Springs. To me, it's an issue of fairness.
Battin is prepared for stiff opposition from some lawmakers and possibly Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has negotiated additional revenue for the state from tribes in return for more slot machines. The governor has negotiated other concessions, such as environmental, patron and employee protections.
It's going to be a very difficult bill, Battin said.
Battin, an ally of the gaming tribes, said he has been studying the concept for nearly two years and deliberately did not roll it out before the Feb. 5 vote that affirmed big compacts for four Southern California tribes, including Sycuan of El Cajon and Pechanga of Temecula.
I just didn't want this to get caught up in that whirlwind, and it would have, he said.
In addition to giving tribes more slots, the measure could generate a large revenue stream for a fund that pays small and nongaming tribes $1.1 million a year, Battin said.
That fund could lose millions that have been redirected in the four compacts just approved by voters, some nongaming tribes have complained.
Battin said he briefed the Schwarzenegger administration on his bill. A spokesman for the governor said yesterday that Schwarzenegger had no position on the bill.
Some tribes, such as Rincon, have attempted to renegotiate their 1999 compacts but say Schwarzenegger asked too much in return for more slots.
The 1999 compacts contained many ambiguous provisions, including the number of slots permitted statewide. The largely identical agreements gave tribes up to 2,000 slots each, with a minimum guarantee of at least 350.
But estimates at the time of how many slots were authorized statewide varied from roughly 45,000 to 113,000.
When tribes began distributing the slots themselves, Davis issued an executive order assigning that responsibility to the gambling commission.
The statewide cap may have been undercut in recent years when Schwarzenegger negotiated compacts authorizing unlimited slots for seven tribes, including some in San Diego County.
The '99 compacts do say every tribe has the right to operate 2,000 machines, Battin said. It wasn't until the state took over the process that we found out there was a limit.
Follow the money - somebody is getting a payoff.
Like Mr. Burns said when he opened a casino on “The Simpsons”: “Smithers, look at all of those idiots lining up to give me their money. And the most amazing thing is that it’s perfectly legal.”
Why the hell should California continue to give a monopoly on casinos to a favored group? If there’s going to be casino gambling, open it up to everyone. At least with non-Indian casinos, the state could regulate, audit, and tax them.
I have a better idea: let anybody apply to open a casino anywhere in the State — or close them all completely. It’s high times that the prejudicial treatment surrounding this issue end once and for all.
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