January 28, 2008

Tribes differ on propositions

Casino battle divides tribes"We're going to basically stay on the sidelines for now and see where this goes," said Manuel Hamilton, vice chairman of the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians near Anza. "It's just a shame that the two factions are creating a problem for all tribes in California. Both sides are self-serving, and they're putting everybody else in the middle of everything."

With eight members and no casino, the Ramona band is among several not choosing sides now, but which once worked to get Vegas-style gambling approved in 1998 and 2000.

They believed California tribes were "one voice, many nations" and supported gambling and prosperity for all, Hamilton said.

"Now it's all about the money and who can I step on to get there," said Hamilton, who laments the tens of millions of dollars being spent on the campaigns instead of on education, substance-abuse treatment or other needs.
A pro-compact tribe:Locally, the Augustine Band of Mission Indians in the Coachella Valley is upset that two tribes are trying to undo compacts negotiated by four other tribes. The Augustine band, which runs a neighborhood casino with 800 slot machines near Coachella, is opposed on principle to the ballot referendums challenging the compacts.

"We have issues or concerns about the contents of those compacts, but we'll keep those to ourselves because the tribes have the right to negotiate those compacts," said Michael Lombardi, a gaming commissioner for the Augustine Casino. "We think the voters can figure out what they want to do."
Another neutral tribe:Not far from the Augustine Casino, the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians operates the Spotlight 29 Casino along Interstate 10. The tribe is staying neutral on the ballot measures, but doesn't approve of the decision by the tribes and Gov. Schwarzenegger to end the four tribes' payments to a special distribution fund.

The fund was established several years ago to give local government a cut of tribal gambling revenues to mitigate the affects of casinos on their communities. Currently, the tribes put a portion of their revenues into this fund.
An anti-compact tribe:Several hundred miles to the north, the leader of another tribe without a casino is working for the agreements' defeat.

Nelson Pinola, chairman of the Manchester-Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians in Mendocino County, said he opposes the measures because of the hit to the special distribution fund. The fund has helped backfill another tribal account, called the revenue-sharing trust fund, which funnels $1.1 million in annual gambling revenues to each tribe with no casino or with only small gambling operations.

"This is not an issue of sovereignty for me. It's an issue of fairness and equality," Pinola said.
Comment:  Yes, achieving economic self-sufficiency and providing for your children's future is "all about the money." It takes money to do almost everything important, including teaching children about their tribal culture and language.

As I've said before, I think California's gaming tribes should give generously to its non-gaming tribes.

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