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ENDORSEMENTS 2008: Props. 94-97 keep in place deals made by the state with four Indian tribes.

January 22, 2008

Despite a convoluted history, Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 are actually quite simple. They would uphold agreements to amend existing compacts between California and four Indian tribes that already permit gambling on their reservations. These addenda were negotiated by the state, vetted and adopted by the Legislature and signed by the governor, but a petition drive funded by organized labor, racetrack owners and several other tribes forced the four agreements onto the ballot.

There is no reason for the state to back out. Vote yes on Proposition 94, 95, 96 and 97.

The measures are practically identical, the only differences being the tribes covered by each: the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

All four already were covered by compacts that grant them and other tribes exclusive rights to operate slot machines in California. The new agreements expand the number of machines and, the tribes expect, the amount of revenue they take in; the agreements provide that 15% to 25% of the take, depending on a complex formula, will be remitted to the state. Predictions that the state will reap more than $9 billion from these agreements may be on the rosy side because they are based on assumptions that more gamblers with more money to spend will flock to reservations. Still, opponents are overplaying their hand. They claim that the tribes have exclusive control over how much to send the state. Not true. The State Gaming Agency will audit each quarterly payment, and although The Times would prefer those audits to be publicly available, we find the audit and dispute procedures acceptable.

Voters would be foolish to believe that gambling will rescue the state from its perpetual fiscal crises. But it does bring in revenue while also bringing much-needed wealth to impoverished indigenous Californians.

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