California compacts up for vote on Super Tuesday
February 5 is a big day for California. Not only will voters take part in the "Super Tuesday" presidential primary, they'll also decide whether four tribes can expand their casinos.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation signed Class III compacts with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last year. The deals allow the tribes to add up to 17,000 slot machines at their casinos.

In exchange, the state receives a cut of the slot revenues -- estimated to be $9 billion over 20 years. But opponents among labor unions and the non-Indian racetrack industry say the compacts are unfair to workers and to other gaming tribes.

The stakes are extremely high. So far, the four tribes and their supporters have spent more than $82 million to persuade voters to say "yes" to Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 while the other side has spent more than $26 million.

Opponents include the Pala Band of Mission Indians near San Diego and the United Auburn Indian Community near Sacramento. The tribes, whose own compacts with Schwarzenegger allowed for more slot machines, each contributed $9 million to the "no" campaign.

Most other tribes, however, support the new compacts. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents more than half of the state's tribes, and individual tribes have voted to back the four tribes.

"The efforts by outside third parties who have their own financial or political agendas is a direct challenge to the future of the Indian gaming industry and all California tribes, whether they have gaming operations or not," said CNIGA Chairman Anthony Miranda, who is Pechanga.

The Pala and Auburn tribes do not belong to CNIGA. Along with a handful of other tribes, they withdrew a few years ago amid a dispute over direction of the organization, which holds its annual convention and membership meeting in Palm Springs -- home to the Agua Caliente Band -- the week after the February 5 vote.

The outcome of the propositions, as well as the presidential primary, will be a hot topic at the 13th annual Western Indian Gaming Conference. Tribal leaders will discuss the political forecast for the year during a panel session.

Meanwhile, a fifth tribe's gaming compact has been approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians signed a deal with similar provisions to the "Big Four" compacts but it won't up for a vote on February 5.

According to Proposition 94, the Pechanga Band will be able to add up to 5,500 slot machines at its casino. The tribe will contribute $42.5 million a year to the state, plus a share of the slot revenues.

The Morongo Band will be able to add up to 5,500 if Proposition 95 passes. The tribe will share $36.7 million with the state, in addition to a cut of the slot revenues.

The Sycuan Band will add 3,000 more slot machines to its casinos, according to Proposition 96. The tribe will pay $20 million a year to the state, plus a share of slot revenues.

Finally, the Agua Caliente Band will add 3,000 slot machines if Proposition 97 passes. The tribe will share $25.4 million a year, plus a percentage of slot revenues.

In prior elections, voters have overwhelmingly supported Indian gaming propositions. Polls also indicate most Californians believe casinos benefit tribes.

Ballot Propositions:
Proposition 94 | Proposition 95 | Proposition 96 | Proposition 97

Campaign Finance Data:
Californians Against Unfair Deals | Tribes for Fair Play

Federal Register Notices:
Agua Caliente | Morongo Band | Pechanga Band | Sycuan Band

Relevant Links:
Californians Against Unfair Deals - http://www.nounfairdeals.com
Coalition to Protect California's Budget & Economy - http://www.yesforcalifornia.com

Related Stories:
Editorial: Vote yes on Big Four gaming compacts (1/21)
Swimmer cites investigation of misplaced compacts (1/18)
Column: BIA helps gaming tribes get richer (1/17)
Opinion: Gaming compacts will help California (1/16)
Gaming compacts were sent to wrong room at DOI (1/14)
Column: Gambling on California's future (1/14)
Opinion: Support California gaming compacts (1/10)
Commentary: Gaming expansion in California (1/9)
Editorial: Vote yes on tribal gaming compacts (1/7)
Commentary: Tribal spending on compact referendum (1/7)
Editorial: Bungling of California gaming compacts (1/7)
Fight brews over 'Big Four' California compacts (12/20)