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Viewpoints: Proposition 48 will open floodgates to casinos in California

In 2000, California voters were asked to approve limited casino gambling on Indian reservations. Tribes promised that casinos would open only on established reservations in mostly remote rural areas.

Fourteen years later, Proposition 48 would approve controversial tribal gambling compacts allowing the North Fork tribe to build an off-reservation, Vegas-style 2,000-slot-machine casino in Madera County, an hour’s drive from the tribe’s established rancheria.

Proposition 48 gives the voters the opportunity to confront the question of whether tribal gambling in California should expand beyond established reservation lands as previously promised. California already has 109 tribes operating 70 casinos, with additional groups seeking federal recognition bringing the possibility of more than 130 tribes in California – all eligible for casinos.

Proposition 48 would open the floodgates to even more casinos. They are already being considered in urban areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco by tribal petitioners seeking federal recognition. Tribes such as the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians – that have land and the right to host gambling on that land – want more.

The Los Coyotes Band of Cahullia and Copeno Indians is seeking a casino 125 miles from its current reservation, working with gambling investors from Detroit. The Manzanita Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County is seeking a casino 60 miles away in Imperial County, a market that includes the young men and women of a nearby military base.

Working with a Chicago investor, the Enterprise Rancheria wants to open a casino 50 miles off reservation near Highway 65 in Yuba County. And let’s not forget the Wilton Rancheria, proposing an off-reservation casino just 20 miles south of Sacramento with Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas.

Since Californians approved gambling on tribal land, most tribes have played by the rules, building on their original reservations and respecting voters’ wishes.

However, passage of Proposition 48 would be a game changer. Even tribes that have kept their promise will be challenged to seek more marketable locations to protect their financial futures.

In addition, the North Fork compact will mean no new money to our state’s general fund or for our schools. That translates to less money to local governments and reduced services to citizens.

Many Central Valley elected officials and business owners oppose Prop. 48 because they know that it will simply take resources and jobs from nearby non-tribal businesses. Central Valley farmers are opposed because they know that this project will create an even greater burden on our diminishing water supply. The proposed North Fork casino is permitted to draw as much as 100 million gallons of groundwater per year, potentially affecting agricultural production and the cost of food statewide.

So who will benefit?

Station Casinos, the Las Vegas-based company that would operate the casino, stands to make millions of dollars. Station has spent more than $1.4 million on lobbyists since 2005 to ratify the North Fork compact, and has advanced $23.8 million to the North Fork tribe. Additionally, Station Casinos would receive 30 percent of whatever the casino makes in “managerial fees.”

This company and other out-of-state gambling interests will become a new political power at the state Capitol with little regard for the public’s welfare.

Please join me and vote “no” on Proposition 48. Let the Legislature and governor know that we oppose Vegas-style casinos in our communities. It is time to stop the flood of off-reservation casinos in California.