Calif. tribes confront 'dangers' facing gaming
Thursday, January 15, 2004

California tribal leaders need to stay united as they confront challenges facing their people in the coming year, the head of the state's largest Indian organization said on Wednesday.

Anthony Miranda, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), delivered the opening speech to attendees of the 9th annual Western Indian Gaming Conference, being held in Palm Springs this week. He cited the positive benefits of the state's $4 billion, and growing, tribal casino industry.

"Overall, it is estimated more than 200,000 Californians are now employed, either directly or indirectly, by Indian gaming," Miranda said. "That adds up to billions in wages, benefits and other payments generated directly and indirectly by Indian gaming."

But even though he said the state of California's tribes was strong, he cited two "dangers" facing them. One, he said, is Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's call to take a "fair share" of gaming revenues. Last week, Schwarzenegger put the number at $500 million.

"From our perspective, the governor's concept of 'fair share' is amusing and troubling," Miranda told attendees. "It clearly shows that he doesn't understand a very simple fact: that the state does not pay a single dime in compensation to the tribes. Nothing."

The other challenge, he continued, is a voter initiative that would expand gaming at non-Indian card clubs and racetracks off tribal lands. He called the proposal a "deception" of the will of California voters, who overwhelmingly backed tribal gaming in two separate votes.

"The people understand that tribal government gaming is about people and self-reliance," he said. "This is something that these out-of-state corporations do not understand."

In his speech, Miranda outlined one step CNIGA, which has 59 member tribes, is taking take to address these dangers. He said the tribes will engage in an education program for California voters that will "build good will by dispelling untruths, half-truths and uninformed opinion."

Other tribal leaders backed the effort and said education -- from reaching out to local communities to improving public school curricula -- is absolutely critical. "We have to come from their reference point, not from ours," said Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

Marc Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, said "a big role of that should be assigned to the public school system." "That's where hearts and minds are won," he said.

Throughout the day, tribal leaders said they were willing to meet with Daniel Kolkey, an attorney whom Schwarzenegger has assigned to reopen gaming compacts that were given final federal approval by the Clinton administration in 2000. Kolkey developed failed agreements for former Gov. Pete Wilson (R) that did not have widespread support.

"He will make a formidable negotiator and opponent," Miranda said. "This much can be said of him -- we will always know where he stands."

Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in and around Palm Springs, acknowledged "the difficult times ahead of us." But "we as Indian people are standing together," he said. "We as Indian people will face all challenges, and in the end, we will prevail because what we are doing is right for our people."

"Together we can accomplish very, very much," he told attendees.

Relevant Links:
California Nations Indian Gaming Association -
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -

Related Stories:
Calif. tribes welcome pick for compact negotiator (01/08)
Schwarzenegger seeks revenues from gaming tribes (01/07)
Commentary: Gaming tribes must serve public (11/25)
Calif. tribes put aside rhetoric of recall election (11/10)
Schwarzenegger picks card club adviser for post (11/06)
Commentary: 'Promiscuous' spending by Calif. tribes (11/04)
Opinion: Calif. tribes on 'defensive' after recall (10/21)
Column: Schwarzenegger groped Indians in Calif. (10/20)
Harjo: Schwarzenegger needs education on Indians (10/20)
Commentary: Schwarzenegger wrong on Indian gaming (10/16)
WSJ Column: Tribes should pay their fair share (10/14)

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