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Vote 08: Indian Gaming Propositions

January 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
You've seen ads on TV: Indian tribes asking for support of Propositions 94 through 97. The Governor's deal with Indian tribes offers the promise of billions of dollars for the state. But opponents say it's a bad deal for California. Baby needs a new pair of shoes -- and California needs a new source of revenue.

"We now have no way out except to face our budget demons," said Governor Schwarzenegger.

Governor Schwarzenegger wants to face those demons with tribal casinos and a huge chunk of their money at his side.

As part of a deal with the state, four tribes would add as many as 17,000 new slot machines to their casinos. California would get a cut of all the cash they generate.

"Up to 25 percent of your revenues being turned over to the state is a monumental amount of money for our state," said Fiona Hutton, gaming propositions supporter, Yes on 94, 95, 96 & 97. "It's an infusion of cash up to $9 billion over the next two decades. It's hundreds of millions of dollars each year."

That's a lot money.

But Professor Peter Dreier, Director of Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College, says it's a losing bet.

Dreier is one of the people asking voters to shoot down Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97, the props that would approve the Governor's deal with the tribal casinos.

"The Governor and the Legislature cut a bad deal and the voters should say, 'Go back to the negotiating table and give us a good deal,'" said Dreier.

Dreier says the Governor cut the tribes a sweetheart deal, that other tribes in other states fork over considerably more cash. Pennsylvania, says Dreier, gets 55 percent of the net win. Florida, 50 percent. California, though, according to Dreier's research, will be closer to 18 percent. And the professor says the Governor's deal lets the tribes hire the auditors.

"So the Indians themselves are going to decide how much money they made and how much they owe the taxpayers, how much they owe the state, which is like the fox guarding the chicken coop," said Dreier.

Not true, says Fiona Hutton, who's pushing for approval of the gaming compacts.

"These new compacts specifically allow the state to come in randomly to oversee the books and audit the books any time they want," said Hutton.

Hutton says unless all four of the propositions are approved, the entire casino deal -- and its promised billions of dollars -- will vanish.

An all-or-nothing deal, with the voters setting the odds.


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