Gov. okays new pacts

Aug 15, 2006 9:09 PM

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back at the negotiating table, and has signed a new compact with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs. The deal allows the tribe to build a third casino and to have up to 5,000 slot machines.

The new deal marks a breakthrough, after negotiations between the governor and a number of California’s most powerful tribes hit a standstill. Other tribes that are back in negotiations include Pechanga of Temecula, Morongo of Riverside County, San Manuel of San Bernardino County, and Sycuan of San Diego County.

New compacts will come with a higher price tag””revenue sharing for slots has risen from 10 percent to 15 percent for larger casinos, with increases of up to 25 percent as casinos add more slots. Additionally, the Schwarzenegger administration may well get the tighter environmental, labor, and patron protections that tribes formerly objected to.

The Agua Caliente will pay 15 percent of net earnings from the new slot machines, and increase the amount of revenue sharing from existing slots, generating nearly $82 million a year for state coffers, The Desert Sun reported.

The tribe currently operates the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs and the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage. The Agua Caliente own a total of 32,000 acres, including 530 in South Palm Springs where they operate a golf course and will soon open a hotel.

Though the tribe says they currently have no plans for another casino, there has already been talk among developers of where one might go — Ernest Noia wouldn’t mind seeing a casino at his Indian Oasis development, and Don Bradley, city manager of Cathedral City, would also welcome the opportunity.

There has also been talk of an expansion of the tribe’s Spa Resort Casino.

Tribes pick
their battles

Six gaming tribes who were threatened last month with lawsuits to revoke their gambling compacts and the closure of their casinos by the Schwarzenegger administration have given in to the governor’s demands.

The tribes met their deadline last week to remove multi-station machines. The machines accommodate 5-10 players at once, and became a source of contention between the casinos, which counted each machine as one slot, and the state, which counted each station. The state accused the casinos of using the multi-station machines to exceed the 2,000-slot limit outlined in their 1999 compacts. Compromises offered by the tribes — which included the Pechanga, Barona, Sycuan, Morongo, Colusa and Berry Creek — failed to satisfy the state.

Tribal attorney George Forman told the San Diego Union Tribune that the tribes in question had complied with the state’s request. "They either took the multi-station games off the floor . . . or they left one or more of those in place and removed [an equivalent number of slots.]"