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Indian Gaming Wins in High-Stakes Measures

California voters passed up a chance to change the rules on gambling in the state by rejecting two propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Had they approved Propositions 68 and 70, voters would have opened the door to roulette in tribal casinos, and slot machines in card rooms run by businesspeople with no American Indian affiliation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully campaigned against both propositions.

Proposition 70 sought to give tribes an option of entering a 99-year agreement with the state, where tribes would pay the state an equivalent of the corporate tax rate (now 8.84 percent) on gambling revenue.

That would replace current compacts between the tribes and the state, which either limit the number of slot machines in American Indian casinos or call on tribes to pay different fees to the state.

Some 76 percent of voters cast ballots against Proposition 70.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians of Highland Park contributed $10 million to the campaign in favor of Proposition 70, while the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs contributed upward of $12 million. State records showed San Diego County’s Rincon San Luiseno Band of Mission Indians contributed $50,000 to the campaign.

John Currier, the chairman of the Rincon band, called his tribe’s support of Proposition 70 a “defensive move,” saying the 8.84 percent payment may be the best alternative the tribe has. He expressed frustration with the tribe’s dealings with the state, and the financial deals the state is giving other tribes.

Harrah’s runs the casino on the Rincon reservation near Valley Center.

The Barona Band of Mission Indians had encouraged its members to vote yes on Proposition 70. The measure “would have given some more options to the Barona band,” said tribal spokesman David Baron. With its defeat, the tribe’s resort hotel and casino business near Lakeside remains “strong,” he said.

“We’re ecstatic 68 didn’t pass,” Baron added.

Among other things, Proposition 68 would have called on tribal casinos to send 25 percent of their winnings to the state. If tribes refused the arrangement, the measure would have permitted slot machines in non-tribal card rooms and racetracks, including Ocean’s Eleven Casino in Oceanside.

Some 84 percent of California voters said no to Proposition 68.

With the measure’s defeat, “life goes on as normal,” said Bob Moyer, the managing partner of Ocean’s Eleven. Still, Moyer said he does not see a “level playing field” when comparing his business with that of the California tribes.

California has 53 tribal casinos. Nine of them are in San Diego County.

Statewide, slot machines in tribal casinos generate $5 billion after prize payouts, according to the California secretary of state’s office.

With the election settled the way it was, analysts from Deutsche Bank in New York predicted California tribal cainos will continue to expand, adding between 15,000 and 25,000 slot machines. The secretary of state said there are upward of 54,000 slot machines in California.

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Tribe Loses Round In Landfill Fight: San Diego County voters last week rejected Proposition B, a measure to stop the Gregory Canyon Landfill, planned for a site a few miles from the Pala casino and resort.

As of Oct. 16, the Pala tribe had spent more than $2 million on the campaign in favor of Proposition B, according to documents on file with the county registrar of voters.

Tribal members have said the landfill would encroach on sacred sites. Dennis Lhota, spokesman for the Proposition B campaign, said his group also feared the landfill would pollute drinking water in the area.

The campaign against the landfill was not a NIMBY issue, Lhota said. NIMBY refers to the expression “Not in my back yard.”

Some 63 percent of voters said no to the measure to stop the landfill.

Lhota said landfill opponents will challenge the permitting process as well as the adequacy of the landfill’s environmental studies.

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