Tribes Versus Tribes
Tribes Versus Tribes
Pala Band of Mission Indians and United Auburn seeking ballot initiative to overturn slot increases at four tribal casinos
Two California tribes are contributing $1 million to a signature campaign to stage ballot initiatives in an attempt to overturn tribal-state gambling agreements enabling four other tribes to expand their casino operations.
The Pala Band of Mission Indians of San Diego County and the United Auburn north of Sacramento have joined a labor organization and racetrack interests in opposing the agreements, or compacts, which would allow the four tribes to add more than 17,000 slot machines to their casinos.
The compacts, ratified this summer by the state Legislature, will enable the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians of Temecula, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs, Morongo Band of Mission Indians of Indio and Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation of San Diego County to nearly triple their current allotments of 2,000 slot machines. The state is receiving a percentage of the machine revenue.
“The Pala Tribe and the United Auburn Tribe are going to help with the signature-gather process through their own political action committee,” said Doug Elmets, a spokesman for the tribes, which operate their own casinos.
The money will assist the Unite HERE labor union and Bay Meadows Land Co., which owns two horse thoroughbred tracks, in collecting 433,971 signatures needed to place the four measures on the ballot for the Feb. 5 presidential primary election. The referenda backers have until Oct. 8 to collect the signatures.
But both the California Nations Indian Gaming Association and Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations passed resolutions opposing the referendums. The gaming association represents 65 tribes and the alliance has 14 tribal members.
“Our TASIN members voted to stand united with our fellow tribes in opposition to these misguided referendums,” said Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman of the tribal alliance. “These referendums strike at the very core of the right of tribal governments to negotiate and execute gaming compacts in good-faith with the state.”
Anthony Miranda, chairman of the 65-member association, said: “The efforts by outside third parties who have their own financial or political agendas is a direct challenge to the future of the Indian gaming industry and all California tribes, whether they have gaming operations or not.
“CNIGA views these efforts as a direct assault on the sovereign right of all tribal governments throughout the country to negotiate gaming compacts on a government-to-government basis.”
Elmets said the tribes are acting independent of the union and Bay Meadows.
“We are not part of the formal (campaign) committee,” he told the Sacramento Bee newspaper. “There is no commitment beyond signature gathering.”
Unite HERE has a collective bargaining contract to represent workers in the Pala casino and is negotiating one in the United Auburn casino.
Elmets said the tribes are worried that the targeted compacts will allow these tribes to “flood their casino floors” with enough slot machines to undermine business at smaller nearby casinos.
A Pala casino competes with a casino resort operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians near Temecula. Pechanga, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians of Indio and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation all have new tribal-state agreements allowing them to operate up to 7,500 machines.