REMEMBER all the promises that if we expanded Indian Gaming that our budgets would be balanced? LIE REMEMBER when the tribes said they'd take care of their people? LIE
If tribes want to renegotiate, SHUT DOWN THE CASINO until negotiations are ended.
San Diego County’s Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians this month became the first California tribe to get a casino agreement through the federal courts.The deal came after the tribe recently won a years-long legal fight against the state over demands for revenue sharing in exchange for permission to expand.
Whether other tribes try to take the same legal path is the big unknown. Several hundred million dollars in tribal revenue-sharing payments to the state general fund are in play.
“Can they get the same kind of agreement that Rincon has been able to achieve? The answer is maybe,” said Rincon lawyer Scott Crowell.
Added George Forman, an attorney for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Banning: “We’re all asking ourselves that same question.”
The Rincon band sued California in 2004 after the Schwarzenegger administration demanded that the tribe agree to pay millions to the state’s general fund in return for permission to add 900 slot machines to its casino, Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort.
Lower courts sided with the tribe’s position that the general fund payments are an illegal tax and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in 2011. That triggered more negotiations with the state.
The two sides failed to reach an agreement. In 2012, a mediator presented the tribe’s proposed compact to the U.S Department of the Interior. Earlier this month, the department issued “secretarial procedures” that imposes the deal on the state.
Under the procedures, the Rincon tribe will pay into special state accounts meant to pay for gambling regulators and assist poor tribes that have little or no gaming. The tribe also is negotiating with San Diego County on setting up a local casino mitigation fund. But the tribe will not pay into the state’s general fund.
California voters authorized gambling on tribal land in 2000. Those deals did not require payments to the general fund, the source of money for most state services.
After taking office in 2003, though, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger insisted on general-fund payments as part of new or renegotiated deals with several tribes, including major agreements in 2004 and 2006.
The latter tribes included the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians near Temecula, the Morongo band, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians near San Bernardino, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in the Coachella Valley.
In 2011-12, the state received $369 million in tribal revenue-sharing payments for the general fund. It will receive an estimated $337 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14; the decline reflects a temporary stop to payments from two financially struggling tribes. OP: HOW can we balance our budget when gambling revenues are SHRINKING??
Under a post-Rincon legal scenario, tribes making general fund payments to the state could seek to reduce or end the payments. If the state refused, a tribe could file a lawsuit that presumably would end the same way as the Rincon case. OP: Lawsuit? Okay, then no gaming until it's settled.
The Brown administration believes that the Rincon case applies only to future casino deals, not previous ones that all sides had agreed to, spokesman Evan Westrup said.
It was unclear last week if any tribes have expressed an interest in re-opening their agreements in light of the Rincon deal. Representatives of Inland tribes did not respond to requests for comment and the governor’s office declined to comment.
Crowell, the Rincon attorney, said it is unknown how courts would view an attempt to change an existing compact.
“The tribes agreed to the tax rates that the Schwarzenegger administration demanded,” he said.
A legal fight could have implications beyond the courtroom.
Any attempts to reduce tribes’ revenue-sharing payments to the state could make California voters more receptive to proposals to end tribes’ monopoly on Las Vegas-style games.
“I have heard tribes mention that perhaps the Rincon path might be the route they choose to strike a better deal,” said David Quintana, a Sacramento lobbyist whose clients include tribes with casinos.
“While it is good in the short run, in the long run it might be opening a Pandora’s box for other people to get into the gaming world,” he said.