Indian gaming and the lure of revenue

By Nevada Appeal editorial board

A proposal to build an Indian casino about 50 miles west of South Lake Tahoe could be an early test of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's resolve to limit the spread of gaming in the Golden State.

The casino being proposed by the Shingle Springs band of the Miwok tribe, along with a 250-room hotel, was thwarted twice by former governor Gray Davis, yet plans have continued to move forward, according to a report in the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

El Dorado County officials have filed two lawsuits to block it, arguing the resort on 29 acres between Cameron Park and Placerville off Highway 50 will be detrimental to the area's rural environment.

A key issue in the project is construction of an off-ramp from Highway 50 to the hotel-casino. According to an attorney working for El Dorado County, a conflict of interest exists in the situation because attorneys representing Caltrans, the state agency which would build the off-ramp, also work for the Miwok tribe.

Schwarzenegger has espoused a harder line on Indian casinos in California, saying he opposes expansion of gaming if it will cause a burden on nearby communities.

His more pressing burden, however, is the weight of a state budget $15 billion in debt. So as he pushes for a bigger share of revenue for the state from Indian gaming - he's talked as high as 25 percent of profits - he creates some leverage for future negotiations with tribes.

Would Schwarzenegger be willing to bend a bit to allow more gaming if, quid pro quo, the state gets a bigger piece of the action?

From Nevada's vantage point, that seems to be the most likely - and most disturbing - scenario to develop over the next couple of years.

In terms of cold hard cash, every dollar spent in a California Indian casino is potentially a dollar not spent in a Nevada casino. But ever dollar spent in a Nevada casino would potentially be 25 cents not going into California's state coffers.

Nevada's leaders can listen to Schwarzenegger's policy messages. But they should remember that, like always, the money will do the talking in the end.


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