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Legislature OKs casinos' growth

Under the deals, the state will get up to a 25% cut of revenue from the added slot machines.

June 29, 2007|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Deals to add up to 17,000 slot machines at four Southern California tribal casinos passed the Legislature on Thursday, setting the stage for giant casinos with twice as many slots as the biggest in Las Vegas.

Within minutes, union leaders raised the possibility of mounting a repeal campaign.

The Assembly passed compacts that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger struck last year with four wealthy tribes, along with a side agreement addressing child support, gambling addiction, workers' compensation, accounting and arbitration issues.

Under the deals, which Schwarzenegger has signed, the state will get between 15% and 25% of the revenue from the additional machines, possibly bringing in half a billion dollars a year.

Organized labor had unsuccessfully sought to include requirements that tribes not punish or harass workers for trying to organize. Unions had also sought language allowing a union to bargain for workers if more than 50% of employees signed authorization cards.

Jack Gribbon, California political director for Unite Here, a union that organizes casino and hotel workers, said he and other union leaders are considering asking voters to undo the agreements. To qualify a repeal measure for next February's presidential primary ballot would probably require gathering 400,000 signatures in 90 days, he said.

"The discussions are very serious," Gribbon said.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), a former labor organizer, said unions placed an "undue burden" on him with the provisions they sought.

"I did not negotiate the compacts," he said. "The governor negotiated the compacts."

Tribes given the right to expand are the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which owns casinos in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage; the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula; the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego County; and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Cabazon.

A compact between the governor and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians of San Bernardino County did not pass the Legislature. Nunez's office said that was because the tribe refused to sign the side agreement insisted upon by the speaker.

The Assembly also gave final approval Thursday to a compact allowing the Yurok tribe of Northern California to install 99 slot machines. The tribe is among the state's largest, and one of the poorest.

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