California Indian tribes criticize slot initiative as unfair and illegalA proposed initiative to introduce slot machines to California racetracks and card rooms will strip Indian tribes of their slot machine monopoly even if the tribes agree to all the initiative's terms, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which would go before voters next November if supporters gather the requisite 600,000 signatures, was unveiled by proponents late last year as a way to force casino tribes to contribute their "fair share" to state and local governments.
Under it, all casino tribes would be required to agree to new compacts with the state within 90 days of the measure's enactment. The new compacts would require them to surrender 25 percent of their slot machine revenues to the state and meet a list of other requirements. If any of the tribes refused, five racetracks and 11 card rooms-all of them in Southern California or the Bay area-would be allowed to operate a total of up to 30,000 slots in California.
But the tribes' unanimous capitulation is not enough. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has said he is opposed to the initiative, refuses to seek the new compacts with the tribes, or the Legislature refuses to ratify them, the tracks and cardrooms would still get slots.
And even if the tribes, governor and legislators all signed off, the tracks and card rooms would still get slots if the compacts were rejected by the U.S. Department of Interior or ruled invalid by a federal court.
Gaming attorney Howard Dickstein is outraged at the proposed initiative. Dickstein represents several tribes in California, including the Pala Band of Mission Indians, owner/operators of a casino resort outside Temecula. He sees the initiative as a "fraud being perpetrated on the California voter."
"What this initiative does is impose obviously illegal conditions on tribes that no court in the country or any Secretary of the Interior would ever allow in a compact," Dickstein said. "And then it provides that even if everything required of the tribes is illegal, and a court determines it as such, or a Secretary of Interior determines it as such, or anyone else determines it as such, then the tracks and card clubs still get slot machines. So it's a sort of tails you lose, heads I win situation. Under no circumstances do [the tracks and card rooms] not get slot machines."
Added Dickstein: "What they [the tracks and card rooms] are saying is, 'We'll make all of these illegal demands on tribes and if they don't all agree to them, we'll punish them collectively.' That's a practice that I thought went out in the 1940s with Nazi Germany."