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Davis Seeks to Reopen Tribes' Pacts on Gaming

March 01, 2003|Gregg Jones | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis formally notified 61 Native American tribes Friday that California wants to rewrite their gambling agreements with the state to cushion the environmental impact of their casinos.

"My goal is to encourage all tribes to respect the legitimate laws governing the environment, traffic, public safety," Davis said. "How that is done and how we reach that result is part of the negotiating process."

Lawyers representing more than 20 tribes said they were willing to discuss the environmental impact of tribal gambling operations and even the possibility of sharing more revenue with the state, "so long as it makes economic sense for the tribes," said tribal lawyer Howard Dickstein.

Attorney Robert Rosette said the tribes saw the renegotiations as an opportunity "to make Indian gaming more [beneficial] not only for the tribes but for the state and the citizens of California as well. The governor is correct when he states the tribes do desire public acceptance of our projects."

The governor's separate budget proposal to collect an additional $1.5 billion a year in revenues from Indian casinos -- an idea that would require the state to renegotiate the economic portion of the agreements, known as "compacts" -- has been criticized by some tribes as being unrealistic.

Under the state's existing gambling compacts with the tribes, negotiated in 1999, the Davis administration had until March 1 to notify them of the state's intent to renegotiate the agreements for environmental reasons.

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