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Proposal targets casino revenues

The Union photo/Pico van HoutryveMarc Christy deals poker at the Gold Rush Gaming Parlor in Grass Valley earlier this month. Gold Rush owner Sue Barrows hopes to organize a town hall to inform area residents about proposed laws that would make tribal casinos share profits with the state " or lose their exclusive right to slot machines.
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A campaign that will target 25 percent of American Indian gaming revenues to pay for additional police, firefighters and child protective services statewide is building momentum ” and could bring in millions for Nevada County.

The Gaming Revenue Act of 2004 is one of four initiatives that are aimed at tribal casinos and are being readied for the November ballot. Organizers for the campaign, Californians for Public Safety and Education, must gather 598,105 signatures by mid-June to earn a spot on the ballot.

If passed by voters, the act could mean an additional $5,271,048 in annual revenue for Nevada County and more than $1 billion statewide. Money from the trust fund created by the law would be divided among nongaming Indian tribes, county offices of education and local public-safety departments.



Despite the additional money it would generate, the Gaming Revenue Act of 2004 is controversial because of its move toward increased gambling statewide.

If voters approve the act, all Indian tribes would have to agree to pay 25 percent of their winnings from the operation of slot machines and other gaming devices to a trust fund, according to the act.




If the tribes do not comply, they would lose their exclusive right to operate gaming machines in the state. If that occurs, 30,000 slot machines will be allowed to operate in 16 designated card rooms and racetracks in six California counties.

Those slot machines will be divided up among people who already possess a valid state license for gaming tables.

Downtown Grass Valley’s Gold Rush Casino, with five licensed tables, would get 20 machines. However, there would not be slot machines in Grass Valley. The Gold Rush would have to lease them out to an authorized card room or racetrack in Los Angeles, Alameda, San Mateo, Orange, San Diego or Contra Costa counties.

If machines are allowed in these establishments, 30 percent of revenues will be placed in the Gaming Revenue Trust Fund.

Gold Rush owner Sue Barrows hopes to set up a town hall meeting about the initiative in the next few weeks in order to educate the public and gather signatures in support of it.

Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said the California State Sheriff’s Association has taken a neutral position on the act.

For Nevada County, there is a positive impact from the standpoint that it would generate about $350,000 to $750,000 each year over and above the base funding level for the sheriff’s department, Royal said.

But other sheriffs around the state oppose the act because of large-scale gambling’s impact on crime.

“We know and have experienced increased calls for service in gaming casinos,” Royal said of law enforcement officials.

That is why the California Police Chiefs Association took a stand against the Gaming Revenue Act of 2004.

“… There is a serious link between large scale casino gambling and crime. That is why we opposed the Indian gaming initiatives and why we oppose this casino initiative,” the association said in a statement.

The Police Chiefs Association cited Atlantic City’s crime rate ” more than three times the national average, with an index of 12,924 crimes per 100,000 people ” as an example.

Calls for comment from the California Gambling Control Commission and the United Auburn Indian Community ” which operates the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln ” were not immediately returned Friday.

The drive to gather signatures for the Gaming Revenue Act of 2004 began about two weeks ago and will continue until the nearly 600,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot are obtained ” or until the drive falls short of its goal.


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