Promise broken in tribal-gaming deal | TheUnion.com
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Promise broken in tribal-gaming deal

The passage of Proposition 1A, permitting Las Vegas casino-style gambling for California’s 109 Indian tribes throughout the state, has exposed a serious dilemma faced by local elected officials.

County supervisors, city council members and state agencies are experiencing a loss of political power, preventing them from protecting their communities from the impacts of tribal-gaming expansion. This loss further reveals the lack of enforcement capabilities in the current tribal state compact. Moreover, it highlights the difficult and unfair manner in which tribal governments are asserting an exploitation of their sovereignty.

California’s tribal state compact requires tribes to incorporate in “good faith” environmental standards consistent with the California Environmental Quality Act. This was the guarantee to California’s citizens when the governor and Legislature ratified the compact, giving tribes the right to conduct casino operations. Instead, it has become a broken promise.



In hindsight, there was no public policy debate during the current tribal state compact’s 16 days of development. There was no opportunity for comment on the concepts or language, much less for local governments and citizens to add their needs. Overall, the conflicts, which have accompanied the growth of Indian gaming in California, have made it clear that, far from being decisions that affect only tribal governments, tribal gaming is a matter of great concern to local governments, non-Indian businesses and the general public.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act anticipated the need of state governments to foster a public policy climate and address the issues created by the development of tribal gaming and the nature of tribal sovereignty. State governments were authorized to set up an independent framework for the form, extent, scope and intensity of gaming and all its impacts. This public policy is formalized by each state in the development of their tribal state compacts.




Communities of citizens, local governments and business organizations must seek to participate in the upcoming policy debate of the tribal state compact renegotiations. Local government must seek to reclaim the political power which they must have to balance the resources of their communities and to protect the citizens who have elected them.

Sacramento’s elected officials need to hear from the 34 million Californians who are not members of tribes with gambling casinos. Make them hear your voice. You can make a difference!

Cheryl Schmit is founder and director of Stand Up For California, a statewide organization giving voice to communities of citizens, business organizations, members of law enforcement, local elected officials and individual supporters affected by tribal gaming and the impacts of tribal sovereignty.


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