Official Results
Yes votes:
4,786,884 [55.5%]
No votes:
3,838,892 [44.5%]

Overview

Propositions 94 - 97 are referendums on four recent governor-approved Indian gaming compacts. If the propositions pass, compacts for the Agua Caliente, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians will go into effect. If rejected, the four tribes will continue to operate their casinos under the existing gaming compacts.

Background

In 1999 Governor Gray Davis negotiated new tribal-state compacts with nearly 60 tribes, allowing them to expand current gambling operations, allowing Nevada-style gambling in California, legalizing video slot machines, allowing casino employees to unionize and providing up to $1.1 million annually for non-gaming tribes. Indians would also make quarterly payments based on the number of slot machines they owned to reimburse the state for gambling addiction programs and the impact of casinos on local jurisdictions. The compacts were ratified by the passage of Proposition 1A, an initiative constitutional amendment which appeared on the March 7, 2000 ballot. Since the passage of Proposition 1A Indian gaming has generated billions of dollars of revenue, with $7.7 billion made in 2006. California Indians have become the largest contributor to California political campaigns. Gaming has become so lucrative that hundreds of Native Americans are petitioning the Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognition of new California tribes in order to buy land and build casinos.

In 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger negotiated new compact amendments which would allow four of California's wealthiest tribes to add a total of up to 17,000 new slot machines. The tribes includeAgua Caliente, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. In the summer of 2007, the legislature passed four bills which approved the compact amendments and the Governor signed the bills in July 2007. The bills were put on hold, however, with the qualification of four propositions for the Feb. 5, 2008 ballot. The propositions, which qualified in November, 2007, are referendums intended to let the voters decide on the compact approval bills passed in the legislature. If approved, these propositions will allow the compact amendments to go into effect, subject to approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior. If this propositions are rejected, the tribes would have to continue to operate their casinos under the 1999 compacts without the new slot machines.

Any portion of the 1999 compacts that are not altered by the amendments would remain in effect.

Proposals

Propositions 94 - 97 are virtually identical. They allow each tribe to increase the number of slot machines in their casinos by the thousands. Each tribe would be obligated to pay larger amount to the state through two funds. The RSTF fund was designated through the 1999 compacts as a way to pay the state a portion of slot machines revenue and would continue to receive a percentage of slot machine profits under the propositions. Propositions 94-97 would also now require tribal money to paid directly to the general fund for California. The four tribes would pay collectively at least $131 million to the state each year.

Each proposition would require their respective tribes to justify and control environmental impacts of their casinos on nearby communities. Each tribe would create a report on environmental impact which would then be open for public comment. A final report would be published including documented public views. The tribe would have to come to agreements with adjacent cities and the county of residence to provide funds for treatment of social problems created in near-by communities, such as gambling addiction or increased crime. Any failure to reach an agreement would be settled by arbitration. Each tribe would also have to document their intent to avoid or limit casino's impacts on the nearby environment.

A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed by the Governor and each tribe in the summer of 2007 to take effect at the same time as the amendments. The MOA addresses various casino operational requirements. Each casino would have to abide by certain standards regarding money transactions and patron credit. Guidelines would be drawn up to identify gambling addicts and provide treatment. Each tribe would have to provide a copy of annual internal gambling audits to state regulators.

In addition to these provisions, Prop. 96 (the Sycuan's compact) authorizes a second, off-reservation casino. Federal law usually restricts casinos to Indian lands. However, the law contains several exceptions which allow for casinos to be built on lands which touch the reservation along a boundary. The Sycuan tribe bought 1,600 acres of land between their reservation and the site of a future resort. The land contains 24 separate parcels which, if taken into trust as a single piece of property, can meet the federal exception. The tribe has said they are giving thought to building a second casino on the property but for the time being, the property would be used for recreation and tribal residences.

PropositionTribeSenate BillNumber of Slot Machines (Current)Number of Slot Machines (Provided by passage of prop.)Amount Paid annually to State (Current)Amount Paid to State (Provided by passage of prop.)
94Pechanga IndiansSB 9032,0007,500$30 million$44.5 million
95Morongo Band of Mission IndiansSB 1742,0007,500$29 million$38.7 million
96Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay NationSB 1752,0005,000$5 million$23 million
97Agua CalienteSB 9572,0005,000$13 million$25 million

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that Propositions 94-97 had qualified for the ballot on Nov. 19th, 2007. In a surprising move, the federal government approved the compacts in late November 2007, technically allowing the compacts to go into effect well before the February 2008 state election. The compacts were approved automatically as they were received over 45 days previous by the Department of the Interior in Washington. Federal law declares that all compacts must be reviewed within the 45 day period or are otherwise approved. Secretary of State Debra Bowen submitted the compacts to the Interior Dept. on Sept. 5th, 2007, almost two months before the propositions were filed. On Dec. 3, 2007, U.S. Interior Department officials said they will delay finalizing the approvals by not publishing a notice of the approval in the Federal Register. Legal problems could arise with the federal decision if the propositions are rejected on Feb. 5th. 2008. It's unclear how the federal government will handle the compacts if they are not approved by California voters.

Legal Challenges

Three legal challenges were mounted in an effort to stop the compacts from going before voters. Agua Caliente's tribal chairman, Richard Milanovich brought forth a suit that argued that the propositions should be banned from the ballot because the qualifying petitions did not include the full text of the compact agreements for signers to read. Milanovich also contended that the California's constitution forbids challenges to state tax collections, making the propositions invalid. Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly rejected the lawsuit on Nov. 27th, 2007.

Two similar lawsuits were brought by the Pechanga tribe and the Morongo tribe. Their suits contended that the propositions were not verified within 90 days upon collection of the correct number of signatures. They claimed that state law mandates that signatures gathered to qualify a initiative must be collected and verified within 90 days. Judges Gail Ohanesian and Jack Sapunor ruled against the tribes, concluding that state law permits verification after a 90-day period for signature gathering.

Arguments For and Against

Proponents of Propositions 94-97 believe that passage of the compacts will provide a significant amount of new money to California during a period of economic crisis. They claim that the new agreements provide new environmental standards and additional state oversight of tribal gaming. Supporters also claim that $198 million of the new revenues will go into the RSTF fund which will benefit non-gaming tribes around the state. Several prominent law enforcement and business groups support the proposal.

Critics claim that the compact amendments additional slot machines would give financial advantage to four powerful tribes with smaller gaming tribes unable to compete. They point to the fact that the agreements do not provide for a comment period for community members to voice environmental concerns. They claim casino workers are not given appropriate benefits or protection under the compacts. Opponents also claim that the agreements do not provide the level of revenues promised by backers of the plans. Many different labor groups and education organizations oppose the propositions along with several California tribes.

Official Voter Information

Texts of the Initiatives
Proposition 94 
Proposition 95 
Proposition 96 
Proposition 97

Analysis by the Legislative Analyst's Office
Proposition 94
Proposition 95
Proposition 96
Proposition 97

Individual Campaign Committees. Committees formed to support or oppose the ballot measure.

Key Websites and Links

National Indian Gaming Association

California Gambling Control Commission

Division of Gambling Control: This department regulates gambling activities in California through the state Office of the Attorney General.

Pechanga.net. Online collection of Indian gaming news.
[Website archived in Internet Archive]

California Nations Indian Gaming Association
"CNIGA is dedicated to the purpose of protecting the sovereign right of Indian tribes to have gaming on federally-recognized Indian lands."

Index of Native American Gaming Resources on the Internet

Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Online index of treaties compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler.

www.indianz.com

Public Opinion

Vote trend running against Prop. 93 (Term Limits) and in favor of Props. 94-97 (Indian Gaming). Field Poll #2265, 2/04/08

Voters closely divided on Prop. 93 (term limits) and Props. 94-97 (Indian gaming). Field Poll #2262, 1/24/08

Low voter awareness of propositions dealing with term limits and Indian gaming. Field Poll # 2256, 12/27/2007

Videos

Yes For California. Youtube video channel

No on 94-97 Youtube video channel