Gov. Gray Davis proposes increased payments from tribes
- Davis asks California tribes for talks on revenue-sharing issues
03/31/2003 - LOS ANGELES CA
By ERICA WERNER, The Associated Press
Gov. Gray Davis, who angered some Indian tribes by proposing they
increase their payments to the state more than tenfold, has formally
requested revenue negotiations with the 61 tribes allowed to operate
casinos in California.
Davis told the tribes in a letter released Monday that he wants to
renegotiate portions of the tribal-state gambling agreements, known
as compacts, having to do with revenue sharing and the number of slot
machines tribes are allowed to operate.
"Further revenue sharing with the state is a matter which should be
discussed and negotiated in good faith," Davis wrote in the letter
The compacts signed in 1999 don't expire for another 17 years, but
they include windows to reopen talks on two issues: off-reservation
environmental impacts and revenue-sharing and slot machines.
Monday was the deadline for either side to request talks on revenue-
sharing and slot machines, now limited to 2,000 per tribe. Davis sent
a letter to tribes in February requesting negotiations on off-
reservation environmental impacts.
Fifty tribes operate casinos in California, making some $5 billion a
year, according to the state. As sovereign governments they cannot be
taxed by the state, and unlike tribes in other states they don't
contribute money to the state's general fund.
Instead tribes pay into two other funds, one for tribes without
casinos or with small casinos and the other to reimburse state and
local governments for gambling impacts. Those funds are expected to
generate some $130 million a year.
With the window for reopening the compacts approaching and the state
facing an estimated $34.6 billion budget deficit, Davis proposed in
January that tribes contribute an additional $1.5 billion annually to
the state. He said that in exchange he was open to allowing tribes to
have more slot machines.
The state based the $1.5 billion figure on arrangements in
Connecticut and New York where tribes share up to 25 percent of their
revenue with the state. But California tribes dismissed the figure as
unrealistic, and some were offended Davis proposed it without
Tribal officials and attorneys said Monday that only about a dozen
tribes in the state could profitably expand beyond 2,000 slot
machines, and the others would have little incentive to give the
state additional revenue.
"In the short term it's laughable," tribal attorney Howard Dickstein
said of the $1.5 billion figure.
Officials with tribes that want to expand said they could be open to
talks on sharing more revenue, though not likely in the sums Davis is
"If there's a discussion about more dollars from us in exchange for
more machines, I think we can certainly discuss that," said Mark
Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians,
which operates a 2,000-slot casino in Riverside County. "I'm also
saying that there are clearly, in my tribe's view, limits to what we
see as a fair trade-off."
"We're not interested in giving the farm away in exchange for more
machines," Macarro said.
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