What if the ballot description of Proposition 1A in the March 7 primary had read: "Indian tribal gambling: Allows tribes to operate $100-million Nevada-style casinos with as many as 2,000 slot machines each and card games such as blackjack; casinos may bear names like Harrah's and Donald Trump"? Would Californians have approved the proposition by a landslide 65% of the vote as they did?
The situation described above is what's developing as tribes pursue their gambling destinies under compacts with the state that were put into effect by the passage of 1A. Tribal leaders argue there will be relatively few big casinos because most tribal lands are in remote rural areas. That may be so, but it's also clear that the casino business will boom far beyond what most California voters expected when they approved 1A.
Nevada gambling firms, fearing competition, opposed the tribes' Proposition 5 in 1998 but did not reject Proposition 1A. In some cases, the casino companies have forged partnerships with tribes to build and manage their casinos--for instance, Harrah's and Anchor Gambling in San Diego County and Station Casinos near Sacramento. There will be a cluster of casinos in the Palm Springs area.
The experts don't agree on the ultimate impact of the new casinos. The potential number of slot machines runs from about 40,000 to 113,000, compared with 19,000 now. Some legal scholars say the section of the compact that allocates slot machines is indecipherable and will have to be cleared up in court. One expert says tribal gambling revenue will soar from the present $1 billion in business to $2.5 billion. Another says it will reach $4 billion.