California tribes on warpath over charitable gaming

Mar 27, 2008 8:17 PM

Several powerful gaming tribes in California are threatening to withhold millions of dollars they pay to the state because charities and other organizations are generating income through electronic bingo machines.

The tribes are claiming that they and they alone, have a monopoly on electronic gaming devices in the state, even though the amount of money generated by charities is a fraction of what tribal casinos rake in.

At issue is a clause in most tribal compacts that give the tribal casino the exclusive right to operate electronic gaming devices – slot machines – and any violation of the terms of the compact would allow them to suspend payments to the state.

For the powerful United Auburn band of suburban Sacramento, that sum reached over $30 million annually.

The Auburn band has put the Schwarzenegger administration on notice that it believes the charitable bingo machines operated by charities such as Sacramento’s WIND Youth Services are illegal and thus grounds for withhold payment to the state.

WIND provides food, shelter and other help to homeless and underprivileged youths. The charity took in $130,000 last year from its bingo operation, about 10 percent of its annual budget.

Schwarzenegger’s administration has taken the position that bingo machines are not slot machines, and thus the compacts have not been compromised.

Get the complete story in next Tuesday’s GamingToday.