Pulling the plug in California

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So this whole gambling regulation thing is a little more complicated than California and federal governments thought.

We hate to say we told you so, but ... Pandora's Box is open now, and there's no closing it.

The latest California casino opened last weekend -- in a tent. OK, so it's a big fancy Sprung structure, but it still looks like a tent to us.

The Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians opened the River Rock Casino with 60 slot machines in Sonomo County, even though California officials insist the tribe hasn't yet met a number of building, safety and environmental codes.

Here's the response from tribal Chairwoman Liz Elgin DeRouen: "If we stopped for all the hurdles that are put up there would be nothing for the tribe."

Who's in charge here? It sure sounds like the tribe, to us.

And that's a major problem -- perhaps the ultimate problem -- with the proliferation of gaming around the country, and in particular on Indian lands.

Try to imagine a licensee thumbing his nose at the Nevada Gaming Commission. "Sure, we plan to open in a tent. But we'll fix the roads and the parking lots and put in the rest of the improvements, like a permanent sewage system, just as soon as we can afford them. Maybe by February."

In Nevada, where a gaming license is a privilege, regulators hold the trump card. If you don't want to play by the rules, fine. You're out of the game.

To the uninitiated, gambling-industry integrity may seem like an oxymoron. But Nevada's gambling forefathers figured out soon enough that running fair, honest games was the road to riches. Cheats and crooks made money until they got caught, of course, but nothing like the billions pulled in by the casinos that eventually become the corporations running the industry today.

We're not saying the River Rock Casino or any others that have sprung up in California with the advent of Indian gaming are dishonest or unfair. The point is that, for integrity to be maintained, someone has to be willing to pull the plug.

No one appears to have that will in California. We doubt anyone is ever going to pull the plug. Someday, such lack of regulatory oversight will have grave consequences for the state of California.


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