Capitol Alert

New deal for Cache Creek casino tribe; others settle union fight

The Cache Creek Casino and Resort, Oct. 2, 2008.
The Cache Creek Casino and Resort, Oct. 2, 2008. bbaer@sacbee.com

The Brown administration announced casino pacts between the state and several tribes Thursday, including a deal with the tribe that operates Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County and other agreements that could end years of bad blood between some tribes and organized labor.

Thursday’s announcement brings to 10 the number of tribal casino agreements negotiated by Gov. Jerry Brown’s office that await legislative ratification as lawmakers hurry to finish their work for the year.

The new compact with the owner of Cache Creek Casino Resort follows the pattern set in recent years: fewer dollars for the state’s general fund but considerably more money for poorer tribes, local governments and other beneficiaries.

The new deal calls on the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation to pay the state more than $33 million a year. But as little as $6 million will go to the general fund. The rest will be divided among Yolo County government and other local agencies, a state trust fund for tribes with small casinos or no casinos at all, and a newly established scholarship program for American Indians. Some of the money will also go to programs for treating gambling addictions.

Yocha Dehe also has agreed, for the first time, on a ceiling on the number of slot machines it can operate: 3,500. Cache Creek currently operates a little more than 2,000 slots. Slot machines are generally considered a casino’s most profitable form of gambling.

The new financial formula is in line with the so-called Rincon court decision of 2010, which greatly limited the state’s ability to collect revenue from casino tribes. The decision followed a lawsuit filed by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians from San Diego County. The state general fund, which once collected hundreds of millions of dollars under deals negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now receives much less.

Thursday’s deals also signal a new era of relations between unions representing tribal casino workers and a pair of politically influential Southern California tribes that have long resisted organized labor: the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Riverside County’s Coachella Valley and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians near Temecula.

Unions fiercely opposed the tribes’ Schwarzenegger-era agreements in 2006, saying they did too little to protect workers’ rights. The pacts prompted a hugely expensive statewide ballot fight in early 2008.

Jack Gribbon, political director for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, said the new agreements are fair to both workers and the tribes.

“It’s a compromise, one that we support, and we will be supporting as they come up for ratification,” Gribbon said Thursday.

Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga tribe, said in a statement that the pact “reflects the mature and respectful government-to-government relationship we have with the state of California and local governments and our commitment to environmental and worker protections.”

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