UPDATE: The LA Times does an analysis of the deals and finds that the campaign disinfo and reality part ways. Check it out.
One of the unintended consequences of having our Presidential primary in February is the onslaught of Yet More F*cking Ballot Initiatives, at the state and local level. In particular, anyone who’s even sort of registered to vote has been assaulted by countless ads promoting the expansion of slot machines for just four wealthy Indian tribes in Southern California (aka Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97).
There are plenty of reasons to vote “no” on these stupid things…here’s a few in random order:
-Most of the promises about revenue sharing are phony. The tribes get to decide how much and when to pay the state money, and the state has no legal ability to demand the money should they decide to go back on the deal. They keep repeating a $9 billion figure but that’s over 20+ years, and there’s no third party to assure that everyone’s living up to the deal.
-There is virtually no gaming enforcement in California now – and now they want to add 15,000 MORE slot machines to a virtually unregulated market. Compare this to Nevada, which has strict gaming laws, armed agents, and a tested enforcement mechanism to keep crime and dishonest payouts away from the customer. (BTW, did you know that Indian casinos in California refuse to disclose their payout rates, whereas in Nevada it’s required by law? The Indian casinos in SoCal don’t want you to know that at best their payout rates are 70%. In Nevada, it’s 90+%)
-Most Indians won’t benefit from all the money that will come pouring in. The 4 tribes that are putting up these deals have tiny memberships and make sure to keep as many people out as possible so they can keep all the money. Oh, and they keep saying how much they help “surrounding communities?” Unless all those desert towns are full of political consultants, lobbyists, lawyers, and advertising people, I don’t see that as the case. They sure don’t like letting unions organize their workers, and they don’t mind dumping their low wage workers onto county health systems so you and I pay their health care costs. WTF?
-Democrats in particular have no reason to support these initiatives – in 2006 when the tribes didn’t get every single thing they wanted from the Legislature, they immediately pumped out millions of dollars in dead-tree junk mail slamming anyone with a “D” next to their name, purely out of spite. Well, at least some white political consultants got their payday, right?
People supported the original Indian gaming measures as a way to allow tribes to try and build a financial base to support ongoing governmental and social services. I don’t know that this was necessarily a great deal to begin with – an Indian candidate for Congress I worked for years ago once said that he felt like the reliance on gaming and alcohol/tobacco sales was akin to that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Stewart sees his hometown had he not been born.
That said, as a member of a tribe with Indian Gaming (in Wisconsin, where my cousin was tribal chair in the 90s), there were not a lot of options and most people wanted to do the right thing. Since then, however there has been a tremendous amount of money spent in politics, electing legislators and Governors and the like, there’s been plenty of money to spend on all sorts of unsustainable developments in a desert, and absolutely no way to enforce gaming laws to protect both the casinos and the customers, I just can’t vote for these things anymore.
It’s especially difficult when you see a few wealthy small groups of people do nothing for the many folks who could use real help in getting out of the cycle of poverty. But then again, poor Indians around the state aren’t lobbyists or political consultants, so I suppose in the eyes of the Sycuan, Agua Caliente, Pechanga and Morongo, those Indians “got what they deserved.”
Whatever. After years of being pro-Indian gaming, I’m voting “no” this time around….it’s not an easy decision but when something is so transparently bad a deal, I just can’t vote “yes” for some vague notion of “liberal guilt” popular in San Francisco, especially when I know plenty of Indians who are telling me it’s a bad deal for everyone.
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