The reason for my political birth is finally here. Propositions 94 through 97 involve four indian gaming casinos and their request to increase the number of slot machines by thousands. In return, these four casinos will pay a larger annual payment to the State’s General Fund.
The wording for each proposition is basically the same. To make the reading easier, I summarized the propositions:
Proposition 94-97: Referendum on Amendment to Indian Gaming Compact.
- Prop 94: Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians: +5,500 slot machines; $42,500,000 annual payment plus an additional 15% of net revenue from added slots
- Prop 95: Morongo Band of Mission Indians: +5,500 slot machines; $36,700,000 annual payment plus an additional 15% of net revenue from added slots
- Prop 96: Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation: +3,000 slot machines; $20,000,000 annual payment plus an additional 15% of net revenue from added slots
- Prop 97: Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians: +3,000 slot machines; $23,400,000 annual payment plus an additional 15% of net revenue from added slots
- Prop 94-95: If total amount of slot machines exceed 5,000, the additional percentage for net revenues on added slots increases from 15% to 25%
- Prop 94-97: Remove certain projects from scope of California Environmental Quality Act; payments are made to the General Fund; payments may be discontinued if the State allows nontribal entities to set up slot machines
Current statistics from the 1999 Compact
- Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians: 2,000 slot machines; $28,300,000 annual payment
- Morongo Band of Mission Indians: 2,000 slot machines; $29,000,000 annual payment
- Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation: 2,000 slot machines; $5,000,000 annual payment
- Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians: 2,000 slot machines; $13,000,000 annual payment
Based off these numbers, the total increase of slot machines would be up to 17,000 and the annual payments will increase a minimum of $72,770,000. The payments will also be directed to the General Fund which can then be freely used for any Californian project. Currently, the 1999 Compact stipulates for the monies paid to go towards a Indian Tribal Fund which gets redistributed to all the Indian reservations in California.
Opponets to the four propositions say the net revenue formulas can be fudged by the Indian tribes to determine how much money actually goes to the State but I haven’t been able to find the line mentioning this in the Propositions. They also mention the Indian paid auditors, instead of State auditors, will determine the amount to be paid.
Obviously, these four propositions are a hot topic in California right now. On the “Yes” side, these four Indian tribes are just trying to make a honest American living. They want to increase the size of their business and in return, they are willing to increase their annual payment to the State by a substantial amount. With the increase of their business, they are able to accept more visitors; most of which are from California itself. So, in essence, California money will remain in the state.
On the “No” side of things, these propositions affect only four Indian tribes located in the Riverside and San Diego counties. If these propositons passes, a precedent will be set for the other Indian tribes to demand expansion. Expansion would draw in more out-of-state visitors which increases traffic on the highways, increases the amount of garbage created, impacts the environment negatively, increase crime rates, etc. Also, since these propositions affect only four tribes, they can effectively push out their poorer tribal neighbors which would be unfair business-wise.
The biggest draw for voting “Yes” is the fact that the annual payments made by these tribes will go towards the General Fund rather than the Tribal Indian Fund. So, the money can be used to improve education, improve the roads, clean up the environment, whatever the politicians in Sacramento deem is worthy. ;) Even with Indian auditors determining the net revenues, the payments can increase into the mid-hundred millions.
However, there is a clause slipped into the propositions whereby the required payments become null and void if the state allows a neighboring nontribal business to set up shop offering slot machines. This chance of this happening may seem unlikely now, but the amendment expires in the year 2030. That is 22 years where the Indian casinos can operate freely without any competition from nontribal businesses. The text also does not define the term “neighbor”. Is a neighbor someone a mile away or a hundred miles away? In this world we live in, aren’t we all neighbors? Yes. Corny. I know.
There is a strong reason to vote “No” as well. All four propositions has a line reading “omits certain projects from scope of California Environmental Quality Act”. The California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA, requires new developmental projects to complete an environmental study/report and submit it to the agency for approval. These environmental studies are costly and takes a substantial amount of time. If these propositions pass, the casinos do not have to go through this process to build new structures to house the additional slot machines. Instead, they will negotiate with the nearby counties to come to an agreement in regards to protecting the environment. If enough money is thrown at the county, I’m sure they can turn a blind eye towards some of the environmental issues. Since all this is located on the southern edge of the State near the smog mecca of Los Angeles, there probably won’t be much of an opposition in terms of environmental groups.
I am currently undecided on this subject. On one hand, an expansion this large will negatively effect the environment and give four tribes an unfair advantage over their smaller counterparts. On the other hand, that is a LOT of money going towards the General Fund. The money can be used to keep those fringe social programs active. Also, I live in the northern half of the State. And all this is happening to the people living in the southern half. So, voting “Yes” sounds a bit tempting. I probably will decide at the last minute while at the polls.
Or maybe, I’ll just vote “Yes” for one of them and “No” for the rest to balance out the forces of good and evil. Decisions, decisions.