Tribes oppose set of proposed security rules
By James P. Sweeney
October 15, 2008
SACRAMENTO – Pushing ahead in an edgy standoff with Indian tribes, California's gambling commission voted yesterday to impose a set of minimum security standards on tribal casinos.
The unanimous vote came after more than a dozen tribes reaffirmed their opposition to the proposed regulation, which would require California's $8 billion Indian gaming industry to adhere to internal controls as least as stringent as those adopted by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Both sides have warned that the clash appears headed toward a legal fight that could settle the underlying debate over whether the state has the power to unilaterally impose regulations on Indian casinos.
Yesterday's vote sent the proposal back to tribes for a 30-day review and comment period. It could return to the commission for a final vote as early as Dec. 18.
“I know we made nobody happy today,” a somber commission Chairman Dean Shelton said after the vote. “We'll keep working.”
But after more than 20 months of negotiations with the tribes, Shelton and the balance of the commission appear to have run out of patience.
The rules establish a baseline for equipment and personnel that watch over the money as it moves through a casino. The rules cover internal audits, surveillance and the games themselves.
The national commission's guidelines were developed with tribes and had been in place for several years before they were thrown out by a 2006 federal court ruling. The judge in that case concluded the national commission lacked the authority to regulate Nevada-style tribal casinos.
Federal law gave that authority to states as a matter to be negotiated in tribal-state gambling agreements, or compacts, the court held.
California's compacts give tribes the primary regulatory role in their casinos. The state wants to enforce a minimum internal security standard in an oversight capacity.
But tribal leaders and attorneys argued that the proposed rules represent a compact amendment that can only be negotiated between each tribe and the governor. In addition, they said the guidelines were duplicative to what the tribes are doing, unnecessary and “an affront to tribal sovereignty.”
Union Trib Story