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Viewpoints: Don’t loosen tribal recognition rules

If the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has its way, California may experience another Gold Rush. But unlike the one in 1848, this one will result in too many casinos popping up in our backyards.

An alarming report by Stand Up for California! outlines how a loosening of standards in the federal recognition process for tribal governments will lead to a surge of gambling facilities, especially in heavily populated counties such as Kern, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau’s Rob Hotakainen recently reported that California has 71 tribal casinos, the most of any state, and that the recommended changes in tribal recognition “would result in nearly two dozen more.”

This is especially troublesome because California has the most pending tribal acknowledgment petitions in the country. These 34 groups either have been denied under the current comprehensive process, or are hastily created pseudo-groups that do not have historical connections with the state.

If the federal government approves the relaxed recognition requirements, California could have as many as 143 recognized tribal governments, up from the current 109. Once recognized, these tribes will have the authority to take significant amounts of land off state tax rolls and do as they wish, such as build new casinos in urban areas with no competition.

This potential influx of casinos will be disastrous for local communities. Traffic will worsen already congested roads. Tax revenue that could have gone to public schools and other services will be reduced. Close proximity to gambling will have devastating consequences on families.

Tribal governments will also experience negative side effects from the relaxed recognition standards. Pseudo-groups will create unfair competition for meager federal resources and for existing tribal casinos.

With adverse consequences for Californians and sovereign tribes, it is irrational for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to change longstanding procedures for recognition. The changes are desired only by outside gambling interests looking out for their own gain, and will only lead to increased manipulation and corruption.

California does not need a casino Gold Rush.