Gaming commission request reduced

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has scaled back plans to
double the staff at the California Gambling Control Commission. However, he
still plans to expand the staff by about half the number he originally
requested.

Schwarzenegger's original budget request called for the creation of 45 new
positions. That proposal proved to be an uphill battle against mounting
opposition from tribal quarters and the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
The request has been reduced to 23 new staff members.

Politics apparently loom behind the issue. Democrats had hoped to have some
of the cut positions go to the state's Division of Gambling Control, in the
state's Attorney General's office. This has angered some Democrats,
including Jerome Horton, D-Inglewood, whose Governmental Organization
Committee will deal with the issue.

Horton was unavailable for comment, but a Copley News Service story quoted
him as saying that the lack of additional positions for the Division of
Gambling Control "made no sense if our goal here is to have additional
enforcement and oversight of this industry."

Legislative Democrats have also cut the Commission's budget over the past
few years and whittled down the number of current employees to 50.

H.D. Palmer, who works in the state Department of Finance, indicated that
the downward adjustment was just a natural part of the legislative process.
He also said the expansion was intended to give the commission "significant
resources" for new and potential compacts.

Susan Jensen, who handles communications for the California Nations Indian
Gaming Association (CNIGA), the state's largest gaming lobby group,
countered that money for such resources should come from new compacts being
signed by the Schwarzenegger administration.

Instead, she said, CNIGA opposes payment of increased regulation from
tribes who haven't signed compacts with Schwarzenegger. This opposition
does not change with the downward adjustment.

"From our standpoint it's not the amount, but where the amount is coming
from," said Jensen.

One area of commission expansion where Schwarzenegger is sticking to his
guns is one of the more controversial aspects of gaming expansion. This
regards a separate state-run testing lab that has raised vehement
opposition from tribes.

Allison Harvey, who works for the California Tribal Business Alliance, an
organization of six non-CNIGA tribes, said that while her group does not
have a problem with expanding the commission, they oppose certain aspects.

"We don't have an instinctively negative reaction [to expansion], but we do
have some concerns," she noted.

Among those concerns are whether the state testing lab is even feasible.
Tribes currently use private testing labs, the largest being Gaming
Laboratories International. Since the state would not require tribes to use
its labs, it is questionable whether tribes would choose the state lab.

Another area regards staffing of a state lab, since the governor has only
asked for seven of the expanded staff positions to go to the new lab. In
comparison, Gaming Laboratories International has 300 employees.

Calls to the Gambling Control Commission itself regarding the lab were not
returned by press time.