The Props: NO on 68 & 70 -- Indian Gaming

Prop 68 is being sold as a 25% tax on Indian gaming revenue. This is not money we'll ever see.

The tax is supposed to be negotiated between the governor and the tribes within three months of passage, but if the parties fail to make a deal -- and there's no reason the Indians should agree to anything, plus the 90-day deadline makes an agreement almost impossible anyway -- a provision kicks in that amends the state constitution to allow the owners of existing card clubs and race tracks to deploy 30,000 gaming devices throughout the state.

Even more cynically, this scam will give the gangsters promoting it a permanent monopoly on gaming in California.

Voters opposed to legalized gambling may be persuaded this measure sets limits, but it is intended to do the opposite. If it passes, those 30,000 gaming "devices" will mean anything goes in the already licensed card clubs and race tracks. The only "limitation" is that profits will be reserved to those already in the business.

Prop 68 is the initiative process at its scummiest: besides the bait and switch character of the ballot measure itself, it is being promoted with a smarmy "just make them pay their fare share" rhetoric that encourages resentment toward Native Americans.

There's no question that Indian casinos should be required to pay taxes -- their businesses depend on the upkeep of the same roads, power grid, etc., as the rest of us, but Prop 68 is not the mechanism to do the job.

The governor has indicated he is serious about getting a tax commitment from the tribes; he should be held to it. Indian gambling can always be revisited in another referendum, if necessary.

Like 68, Prop 70 expands the reach of gaming while purporting to rein it in.

Prop 70 would allow Indian tribes to negotiate 99-year agreements with the governor, but the state and the sovereign nations can negotiate any arrangements they want already. In exchange for whatever payments/taxes they commit to, the Indians would be handed a monopoly to run Vegas-style casinos in the state. The payments to the general fund would cease, however, if the state permitted non-tribal casino-type gambling to be established off the reservation.

Under current law, Indian casinos are limited to slots and a few games of cards. With the passage of 70, they can add craps, roulette and the full panoply of Vegas-type devices for fleecing the public.

While the tribes' statewide gaming monopoly would seem to protect communities that oppose gambling from the instrusion of massive casinos, it's important to remember that there are tribal lands throughout the state, including the middle of urban regions like the Coachella Valley and the Bay Area. Still, if you're opposed to legalized gambling you may want to vote for Prop 70 because it does limit somewhat the extent to which gambling casinos can be built anywhere.

Prop 70 is a much better proposition -- for the state and the tribes -- than the despicable 68. At least 70's backers are honest about their intentions. But the initiative unnecessarily ties the hands of the governor and legislature. The state is in a strong position to work out a fair payment plan with the sovereign nations; Prop 70 does nothing to strengthen its hand.

Some voters appear to believe that they must choose between 68 and 70, but that isn't so. The most desirable outcome is that both fail. NO and NO.

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