Proposition 70: The Games We Play


OK, we’ve all seen the commercials for this one. On one side you’ve got the state representatives requesting the voter to take a stand against big-money tribes who want to cheat the system and keep major gambling profits for themselves. On the other, you’ve got the Native Americans, whose commercials make us all feel admittedly a little shitty that we treated them so badly back in the day, and encourage us to help promote their economy by allowing them to expand their ventures. With all the political spin being put in these campaigns, it’s a little difficult to really decipher what’s going on behind the rhetoric and what this proposition would really accomplish for both the tribes and the state.
Well, here’s the lowdown: This proposition addresses the specifics of Indian gaming and how it’s conducted in our state. Currently, Indian tribes in California are considered independent nations and thus are exempt from paying most state and federal taxes. They are allowed to practice gaming on their land so long as they abide by the rules of so-called \”compacts\” (an agreement drawn up between the state and the tribe that outlines the terms of payment, operation and so on). Most of these tribes signed their most recent compacts in 1999 and under those guidelines, they are allowed to maintain casinos with a limited number of slot machines and some limited card games in return for contributing a specified amount of their profits back to the state. This money that we receive can only be spent in certain areas, and can be put back into the system to help other tribes who do not participate in gaming, or engage in such little gambling that they do not make adequate profit. The tribes are also obligated to research the effects of the casinos on the areas in which they are erected, and how they positively or adversely affect immediate surrounding society.
But of course, the tribes want to be able to have more slot machines and games in order to generate more business, and the government of California wants . . . well, more of the profits. What did you expect?
In an effort to rectify these issues, the Terminator created the 2004 amendment which he could only get a few tribes to sign. This amendment allows tribes to have as many slot machines as they desire, but at the cost of a required annual payment, and another payment additionally for each machine added. Perhaps the biggest benefit for the state is that it can use the money received for anything it wants.
Those tribes who do not like the governor’s amendment say that they will not sign the amendment, and technically, they do not have to. Instead, some tribes (which include the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who operate near Palm Springs) encourage us to pass Proposition 70.
Voting \”yes\” on 70 will allow tribes that sign new or amended agreements to pay the state an amount based on the profit they make at the corporate tax rate of 8.8 percent as well as be held subject to some payments previously ordained in the 1999 compacts. These renewable compacts would last for a duration of 99 years, and tribes could expand on their land in both the areas in which they game as well as expand the types of gambling they are allowed to offer. Added to the lineup here is more Vegas-style gambling such as roulette and craps.
Voting against 70 means the tribes would have to stay in current state-tribe agreements.
Supporters of this bill, such as Citizens for a Fair Share of Indian Gaming Revenues, say this measure is beneficial for California because they are paying the state the same amount that other corporations pay in state taxes (the 8.8 percent). In addition, the tribes’ lengthy 99-year stipulation would stabilize the tribes and the profits they obtain would allow them a better quality of life. In addition, under this measure, casinos would continue to remain only on reservations.
Yet those who oppose the bill, including Gov. Schwarzenegger, the California Taxpayer’s Association as well as the California State Sheriff’s Association, encourage you to vote \”no\” because they see this measure as a corrosion of boundaries that govern gambling in California, and foresee problems such as increased crime in the busier gaming areas, as well as in surrounding areas, which lack the extra funding for police. Another concern is that gambling on tribal lands will explode into a mega-monopoly, with both the introduction of more Nevada-like gaming as well as the lengthy 99-year duration seriously injuring the dynamics of the state.
Ruchika Tomar is a third-year English major.