Props 94-97: Indian Gaming

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, January 31, 2008

More than 100 million dollars has already been spent on both sides of the four measures—you’ve probably seen lots of ads.   The yes side has a prominent pitch man.  It’s Governor Schwarzenegger. He recently explained why he supports the measures that will allow the tribes to add thousands of slot machines to their casinos. 

 “Because they gave us the money we asked for. You know it is all about that…” 

We’ll get to the money part in just a bit—but first to explain… Propositions 94 through 97 are actually referenda.  They were placed on the ballot by opponents to four gaming deals.  Those were worked out between each tribe and the Governor, then ratified by the state legislature.  The tribes in question are the Morongo, the Pechanga, the Sycuan and Agua Caliente.  If voters say yes, the casinos could add up to 17-thousand machines total.  In exchange they’ll give the state 15 to 25 percent of the profits. Supporters say it amounts to nine billion dollars over twenty years.  Schwarzenegger says it’s a good deal. 

“There were four strong tribes who had the money and they said OK that’s the commitment we want to make because I’m interested in one thing and one thing only. That a) the Indian gaming tribes pay their fair share and b) we in California get the money.”
The Governor says the revenue is needed in these bad budget times.
The opponents include racetrack owners, labor interests and other gaming tribes, who have also poured tens of millions into the “no” campaign.  Nelson Pinola is the Tribal Chairman of the Manchester Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians—in Mendocino County.  He doubts the compacts will bring that much money to the state. 

 “We’re trading that small amount of money for this huge expansion and power to these four tribes and again, I’d say Governor, with all due respect, you’re wrong.”

Pinola is also concerned about the effect of the compacts on small tribes.  He says they won’t get their fair share of the gaming revenue.
If voters say “no” to the measures, it won’t stop the gaming on these tribal lands— but it’s possible the tribes and the state will head back to the negotiating table for another deal.