Initiative threatens slots at tracks and card rooms if California tribes balk at compact renegotiationCalifornia's card rooms and racetracks have launched a ballot initiative to get themselves a piece of the lucrative slot market.
The "Gaming Revenue Act of 2004" calls for California gaming tribes to renegotiate their compacts with the governor to give 25 percent of their net win from slot machines to the state's general fund.
If the tribes refuse, five racetracks will get a total of 3,000 slots each. Eleven card clubs will also share 15,000 slot machines. The tracks and card rooms would then contribute 33 percent of their winnings to cities and counties and create trust funds for education, police and fire services.
Filed Nov. 26 by Sacramento County Sheriff Louis J. Blanas, the initiative also would prohibit tribes from building casinos off their reservations and force them to negotiate with local governments to address negative effects from their casinos.
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association declined comment on the ballot initiative, but San Manuel tribal chairman Deron Marquez told the San Bernardino County Sun that there may be legal challenges to the initiative if it passes. He can't make a judgment on it until he, his tribe and his consultants see the initiative, however.
"It's interesting how the card rooms and racetracks are injecting themselves in the (compact) renegotiation process by basically blackmailing tribes in doing it or else," Marquez says. "It is definitely a strong-arm approach."
Indian tribes currently operate 54,000 machines with an option under their current agreement with the state to operate 7,000 more. Gambling-rich tribes, already major players in California politics, are expected to spend heavily to keep the proposal off the ballot.
"Tribes will vigorously oppose it with all the resources at their disposal," Sacramento attorney Howard Dickstein told the Los Angeles Times.
Not surprisingly, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) is in favor of the new initiative. An article about the "Gaming Revenue Act of 2004" in the NHBPA newsletter described major privately owned California racetracks and card clubs as having "thrown down the gauntlet in their bid to potentially break Indian tribes' monopoly over operation of slot machines in the state."
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said through a spokesman that he will not support a proposed ballot initiative.