New issues arise with Indian gambling

The Associated Press
Monday September 11, 2000

SACRAMENTO — California’s new Indian gambling compact is so vague and shrouded by secrecy that the state doesn’t know how many slot machines are on reservations or how much money each tribe has given the state. 

California voters in March ratified an agreement between the tribes and Gov. Gray Davis to operate Las Vegas-style casinos on reservations. 

But the deal “doesn’t necessarily say how you’re supposed to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. We are sorting through that with the tribes,” said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. 

The compact limits the number of slot machines that tribes could own and requires the 40 or so tribes that have gambling establishments to contribute to a fund benefiting other tribes. 

The Davis administration has said the agreement capped the maximum number of slot machines at 45,206, but the legislative analyst’s office said by some interpretations the figure could be 113,000. 

Earlier this year, the tribes met to divide up the new machines but that information won’t be made public, said Daniel Tucker, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association. 

Barankin said the attorney general does not have a complete count of the new machines. 

Meanwhile, on Aug. 8, the tribes gave the state $34.5 million, based on their own calculations of what they owe. However, the money was contributed without explanation in the form of a single check from the tribes’ accountant. 

The tribes didn’t know how much other tribes contributed. 

“We decided it was none of our business,” said Tucker, vice chairman of the Sycuan band of Indians near San Diego. “We didn’t get into those details.” 

The attorney general’s office has been trying to obtain an accounting since before the check arrived, Barankin said. 

Regulators are dealing with the tribes on a “sovereign government-to-sovereign government basis,” he said. 

Some of the money comes from a fee of $1,250 per slot machine that tribes must pay when they buy new ones, Barankin said. 

The money was placed into an account by state Treasurer Phil Angelides. 

The issue may not be resolved until a recently formed state gambling commission convenes. Davis named four of five members last week. No date for its first meeting has been set. 

“That’s pathetic,” said former Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, a critic of expanded gambling. “How can they enforce the terms of the compact without knowing how many machines each tribe has purchased?” 

The tribes also have contributed at least $65,000 this year to Lockyer’s political coffers.