Gaming heads for California

Don't look now, but $90 million just left the state of Nevada.

The money represents plans for investment by a Nevada company, Anchor Gaming of Las Vegas, into a California Indian tribe's casino. If $90 million can be described as a trickle, it will soon be followed by a flood.

Proposition 5, the Indian-gaming initiative approved by voters, provided the impetus for California to become a high-stakes player in Nevada's game. Although Proposition 5 was struck down by the California Supreme Court, it has forced Gov. Gray Davis to negotiate an agreement with California tribes that will open the door to investors.

The agreement still must be approved by voters in March. But Proposition 5 passed the ballot-box test, despite an enormously expensive campaign by Nevada casinos against it.

If the Nevada opposition suddenly disappears - in fact, switches sides - because those casinos are now stepping up as partners with the tribes, then the March vote will be a sure thing.

That means the giant corporations running many of Nevada's casinos, with ever-diminishing ties to Nevada itself, will be weighing their investments in this state against investments in the Golden State.

It's a frightening thought - not, of course, for the corporations themselves, which will continue to turn a profit. The fear should lie deep within the state's tourism industry, which is built on gaming, and in the halls of state government, which operates on gaming and sales taxes.

Those who recognized the threat of Proposition 5 saw it mainly as creating competitors for the California gamblers who come to Nevada's casinos. We are now seeing the evidence that those competing casinos likely will be built by the very same companies that built Nevada's.

"My hope would be that they remain committed to Nevada as they have been," said Brian Sandoval, Nevada Gaming Commission chairman.

We hope so too.

But the expression "Follow the money" doesn't apply just to politicians and gamblers. It applies to corporations as well.


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