Cal tribes correct AG gaming report

Jun 6, 2006 5:23 AM

Gambling in California has grown to a $13 billion a year industry, according to a report released last week by the state attorney general. And Indian casinos rake in the largest portion of that revenue — $5.78 billion reported in 2004.

Horserace wagering brings in $4 billion annually, the lottery generates $3 billion, and card clubs make up the remaining $655 million in revenue.

A release issued last week noted that from 2001 to 2004, tribal casinos had contributed $154.6 million to the Special Distribution Fund and the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund. One fund helps local governments offset the impact costs of casinos (such as road improvements, additional police and fire services, etc.). The other helps economically disadvantaged tribes by distributing money to those who have no gaming operation, or whose operations are very small.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) took exception to the contribution figure quoted. Chairman Anthony Miranda stated, "As of the end of January, we’ve put in $525 million (to both state and local governments)."

The study also noted an increase in crime in areas near casinos, and CNIGA pointed out an error in this information as well. In its press release, CNIGA noted, "The problem is that the study used was not only not California specific, but also only contains information for the years 1977 through 1996, well before Proposition 5 was passed in 1998 and Proposition 1A in 2000, after which most larger California gaming establishments were developed."

Additionally, the study shows an increase in gambling addiction — about 1.5 million Californians are problem gamblers. While some funds are allocated for gambling prevention programs, none is set aside for treatment programs.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer commissioned the California Research Bureau to conduct the study last year. He said the report was meant to be a useful tool for state lawmakers in addressing these issues.

Tribe Trumps trump

By a 44-to-28 vote, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted last week to give an exclusive, no-bid casino license to Harrah’s Entertainment and the Narragansett Indians, the Providence Journal reported. The legislation calls for a statewide vote on changing the Constitution to allow the off-reservation casino in West Warwick.

The House debated over an amendment proposed by Rep. Stephen Ucci that would have allowed Trump Entertainment Resorts to compete for Rhode Island’s first-and-only license to operate a Las-Vegas style, Class III casino. In the end, Trump’s casino proposal was voted down, 46-to-26.

The $1 billion Harrah’s/Narragansett plan includes a 140,000-square-foot casino with 3,500 slot machines, 100 table games and 50 poker tables. Supporters estimate the casino will create 3,800 new jobs and generate millions of dollars in state tax revenue.

The legislation is now headed to the Senate. If passed, voters will see the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

Warring in Wisconsin

The question of who has authority to approve off-reservation casinos in Wisconsin has sparked an on-going battle. Recently, the state legislators approved a bill giving themselves a role in authorizing off-reservation casinos. But Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill, ruffling feathers among lawmakers and tribes alike.

Meanwhile, the Forest County Potawatomi tribe has launched an advertising campaign and hired lobbyists, calling for an override to Doyle’s veto. The tribe fears that some 2,000 jobs will be lost at its Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee unless Doyle’s veto is reversed.

The tribe also fears competition from the Menominee tribe, which is seeking approval for an $808 million casino-hotel complex in Kenosha. Potawatomi spokesman Ken Walsh told The Journal Sentinel the tribe wants the legislature involved in approving casinos to make sure Milwaukee has a say in the Kenosha proposal. Spokesmen for the Kenosha proposal say the Potawatomi simply want to keep their monopoly in the southeastern part of the state.

Opponents of an override say that requiring legislative approval of casino proposals will simply muck up the process and put an end to other tribe’s plans for off-reservation operations. The Bad River and St. Croix Chippewa have proposed an off-reservation casino in Beloit. Bad River spokesman Bill Broydrick called the Potawatomi’s actions "an example of how rampant greed has become."