March 26, 2008

Gaming tribes vs. charities

Day of reckoning looms over bingo

Electronic version puts gaming tribes, charities at oddsCharities and nonprofit organizations have been operating hundreds of legally questionable electronic bingo machines in Sacramento County, and reportedly in locations scattered across the state, for at least several years.

But a day of reckoning appears to be close.

The wealthy United Auburn band of suburban Sacramento has put the Schwarzenegger administration on notice that it believes the bingo machines violate a clause in its gambling agreement that guaranteed a monopoly on electronic gaming devices. Such a breach would permit the tribe to suspend the $33 million it pays annually to the state.

Charities that have come to depend on income from the machines have taken their plight to allies in the Legislature, seeking a compromise that would sustain their bingo revenue.

But there doesn't appear to be much room for a compromise.

The state could forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tribal payments if electronic bingo is legalized for charities, said tribal attorney Howard Dickstein, who represents United Auburn and Pala of San Diego County.

“This is a high-stakes game for them to be playing,” he said.

Charities say the stakes are just as high for them, although the money involved is much less.

“All I know is we've got homeless kids and this is a big part of our budget,” said John Poswall, a board member of WIND Youth Services of Sacramento.
Comment:  Regardless of who's right technically or legally, the tribes would do well to compromise. It's hard for them to argue they need the money more than the charities do. And taking an absolute position against someone who's "for the children" doesn't seem like a good idea.

Like disenrollment, this is another issue where tribes could win the battle but lose the war. The war is for the hearts of the minds of the public, and tribes aren't doing as well as they were a decade ago. Generating goodwill and good PR should be the centerpiece of their strategy.

For more on the subject, see The Facts About Indian Gaming.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
What's Schwarzenegger going to do if the Natives DON'T compromise? TERMINATE them? Only in Oklahoma...
All Best
Russ Bates

dmarks said...

" clause in its gambling agreement that guaranteed a monopoly on electronic gaming devices."

So much for the claim or implication that tribes don't have monopolies. Even of the monopolies are government-approved.

I dlslike it when any organization (most often plain old businesses) pressures the government to crush or ban the competition, instead of just competing in the marketplace instead.

Anonymous said...

Gaming Tribes oppose charities? Not so...

The news story mentioned a controversial tribal attorney, Howard Dickstein, who only represents a couple of California gaming Tribes, United Auburn and Pala. The Viejas Tribe was also mentioned. These three Tribes don't represent or speak for all of the 60+ gaming Tribes in the state.

Mr. Dickstein was a principal architect behind the recent effort to overturn gaming compacts for four other CA Tribes, which was put before the state's voters on February 5. The voters approved the compacts 56% to 44%, despite the $26M spent by Mr. Dickstein's clients to cancel them. As with the bingo issue, Mr. Dickstein strenuously fights gaming competition, no matter the cost.

Most Tribes, especially gaming Tribes, give generously to their local charities.

Rob said...

What's Schwarzenegger going to do? 1) Let the charities use the machines and forgo the revenue from the tribes. 2) Shut down the charities' use of the machines--by force, if necessary. 3) Broker a compromise.

The so-called monopoly is a monopoly on only one kind of gambling device. The tribes don't monopolize other forms of gambling. Similarly, the phone company has a monopoly on using its phone lines, but cellphone companies can use towers or satellites. Phone service is available despite the "monopoly."

In other words, the monopoly, such as it is, is limited. It doesn't prevent people from engaging in similar kinds of activity. It doesn't prevent them from gambling.

Also, California's tribes have a monopoly because California's voters approved their compacts with Propositions 5 and 1A. So the tribes didn't take something from the people--their freedom to choose--as in a traditional monopoly. The people gave it to them.

Since I work at, I know about the infamous Howard Dickstein. The article tells us which tribes and charities are involved in the bingo match. My headline refers to some gaming tribes vs. some charities, not all gaming tribes vs. all charities.

I wrote an article about the charitable giving of California's tribes, so I know about that too. But thanks for reminding us of it. If you're interested, you can read my article here:

Tribes Give Millions to Charitable Causes

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
"Tribes give millions to charitable causes." Ever wonder why? Because they know that what EuroMan grants one day, he just as easily can take away the next day. If Native tribes ever have learned one truth, it is that the white man lies...
All Best