Gaming precedes new laws

Dec 4, 2001 8:53 AM

It’s almost like the chicken and egg question. Should laws precede a social change?

The issue is gaining more focus since California passed Proposition 1A permitting Native Americans to operate casinos on their reservations. Since then, some 45 tribes have signed gaming compacts with Gov. Gray Davis.

And, with the casinos, many of them similar in appearance to the Las Vegas gaming properties, in full swing, the state’s law enforcement officials have realized that gambling is being conducted without laws to govern its operation.

So far, casino operators have been downplaying the problem, saying, in effect, that there really is no problem since the casinos are being handled by the tribal authorities. Even, the state’s attorney general said it’s not unusual to have laws lag behind societal changes. First, the crimes must be identified, he said, and then laws are passed to cover them.

The situation came to light recently when a pair of alleged card cheats were caught by security at a San Diego-area casino. They were turned over to the San Diego County Sheriff’s department and for lack of a better charge were booked on “burglary with intent to commit a theft.” The charge was later dropped but it did call to everyone’s attention that unlike Nevada, whose laws have casino-specific crimes such as slot rigging, card rip-offs and such, California’s penal code has none.