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Gov.'s TV ads tout slots deal

January 04, 2008|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In television ads that began running statewide Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urges voters to endorse gambling expansion deals he struck with four Southern California Indian tribes.

The deals were approved by the Legislature last summer and were to take effect this week. But competing gambling interests and other opponents gathered enough signatures to ask voters to repeal them by rejecting Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 on the Feb. 5 ballot.

The governor's agreements allow four Riverside and San Diego tribes -- the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has casinos in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage; the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula; the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, with a casino near Banning; and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation near El Cajon -- to add 17,000 slot machines to the 8,000 they now operate. In exchange, the tribes are to give the state 15% to 25% of the revenue from the additional slots.

Last May, Schwarzenegger estimated that the compacts would generate $293 million in fiscal 2007-08. In the new television ads, the governor says the agreements "will mean billions and billions of dollars over the next two decades."

The nonpartisan legislative analyst's office has estimated that annual income to the state from additional machines would be less than $200 million a year in the next few years and that in the long run the compacts would bring the state less than $500 million a year. The deals last until 2030.

The tribes with the new compacts have raised $54 million since August to promote passage of the four propositions. The tribes paid for the television ads, in which Schwarzenegger urges: "Vote 'Yes' for billions of dollars for California families. Vote 'Yes' for California."

Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell also appears in the ad, saying the compacts will be good for California schools.

"These compacts represent a very good agreement for the people of California and the California Indian tribes," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Adam Mendelsohn, "and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger believes strongly in them and will get out and defend them."

An unusual coalition has raised $15 million to try to get voters to rescind the compacts. It includes a company that owns the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood and the Bay Meadows racetrack near San Francisco, which have lost business to tribal casinos.

Two tribes with competing casinos, the United Auburn Indian Community near Sacramento and the Pala Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County, are also contributing to the repeal effort.

Scott Macdonald, communications director for "No on the Unfair Gambling Deals," said voters "will listen to what the governor says, but they'll also listen to us when we tell them that these are bad deals, they're unfair deals, and they need to go back and renegotiate deals that are better for all Californians."

Compact opponents launched television ads Tuesday that say the deals "give away too much to the richest, most powerful tribes."

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nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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