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Charity bingo vs. Indian casinos

September 19, 2008

Re "Stacked deck," editorial, Sept. 15

The Times' editorial too hastily criticizes the Legislature's effort to rein in the growing industry of unregulated charity casino bingo.

The editorial failed to mention that operators of these machines are not currently subject to any regulatory oversight, nor is there any requirement to pay the charities a reasonable percentage of their income. The California attorney general said in May that these electronic bingo devices are unlawful under the California Penal Code and no longer should be used.

The real story is that the legislation came together quickly because legislators were protecting an important budget source. Because the state can't tax tribes, it receives revenues in return for granting tribes the exclusive right for casino-style gambling. If this agreement is broken, compacted casino tribes can continue to operate without obligation to share with the state.

The state needs tribal gaming income in these very difficult economic times. Tribes very quickly responded to requests for input on this subject and were among those who suggested and supported the idea that charities should receive a minimum return from the businesses that operate these machines. Yes, churches and charities need the ability to fundraise -- but we don't need to see church basements turned into casinos.

This wasn't about undue influence from tribes. Californians should expect legislators to act quickly to protect important sources of revenue. Legislators got this one right.

Richard M.

Milanovich

Palm Springs

The writer is the chairman of the tribal council of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Why is it "more than a little troubling" to discover that our legislators are captives of the big campaign contributors? Indian casinos or prison guard unions, it's all the same: Give big and get big. The only positive note is that our legislators are not for sale, just for rent. Those Indians are going to have to keep giving if they want to keep getting.

Arthur O. Armstrong

Manhattan Beach

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