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TV Ad Charges Casinos Profit Only the Rich


Opponents of Proposition 5, trailing in the polls in trying to defeat the Indian gaming initiative, unveiled a television commercial Monday that says that only a relative handful of Indians are profiting from casinos.

The 30-second commercial opens with photographs of seemingly destitute Indians, followed by views of opulent houses on the San Manuel Indian Reservation near San Bernardino, home to one of the state's largest Indian casinos.

"These are the mansions of San Manuel," a woman's voice intones. The TV advertisement says the tribe has only 25 members living on the reservation--based on 1995 federal figures--who are spending the equivalent of more than $1 million each in the campaign for Proposition 5.

"And the poor Indians? Eighty-five percent get nothing," the commercial concludes. Proposition 5 "just makes a few rich casino owners richer."

San Manuel's vice chairman, Ken Ramirez, responding to the ad, said tribal members are "hard-working responsible business owners" who have shared their casino revenue with the community.

"This ad somehow depicts our lives as selfish and uncaring," he said. "We are far from that.

"The message of the Nevada casinos' deceptive ad campaign seems to be: the only good Indian is a poor Indian."

The tribe, which says 163 members live on the reservation, is the single largest contributor to the Yes-on-5 campaign, having donated more than $26 million so far to win voter approval for the types of Indian reservation casinos that now operate without the state's blessing.

Opponents of the initiative argue that it gives Indians too free a rein in operating casinos, and that they should sign compacts with Gov. Pete Wilson--as 11 tribes already have--thatlay out specific state guidelines and conditions on casino operations.

"To claim that Prop. 5 is about helping poor Indians is the ultimate deceit in a campaign full of deception," said Frank Schubert, strategist for the No-on-5 campaign.

Among the various issues is how non-gaming tribes will profit from other tribes' casinos.

Under Wilson's plan, each tribe is licensed to operate up to 199 gambling machines, but can lease the rights of other tribes' machines for $5,000 each. Thus, a non-gaming Indian tribe could make up to $995,000 a year.

Proposition 5 sets out a formula in which up to 2% of a gaming tribe's profits will be set aside in a trust fund to be distributed to non-gaming tribes.

Under that formula, opponents of Proposition 5 say, a non-gaming tribe would receive no more than $145,000 a year, based on fiscal projections made on behalf of the gaming tribes.

Proposition 5 also includes the caveat that if other entities--including the California Lottery--are allowed to use the kinds of gambling devices that the Indians seek for their own use, the profit-sharing plan with non-casino tribes is voided.

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