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Judge rejects state’s request to delay slot machine case

RINCON, Calif. – A federal judge rejected a request last month from California state lawyers to delay a case that will settle whether a San Diego County tribe could increase the number of slot machines in its casino.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attorneys asked for a stay or to consolidate the case filed by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians with a similar one being settled in another district. That case involved the Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians in Northern California. If granted, that request would have moved Rincon’s case from the U.S. Southern District Court in San Diego to the Eastern District in Sacramento 500 miles away.

As an alternative, California attorneys asked to delay the Rincon case until the Cachil case was settled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William McCurine Jr. denied both requests, citing that proceeding with Rincon’s four-year-old case was in the interest of justice outweighing any outcome from a delay.

“Other than the specter of potentially inconsistent district court rulings, defendants (California) have raised no concrete hardships or inequities which would be suffered by the state if the parties simply pressed forward with this issue in the present venue,” McCurine wrote in his ruling.

Rincon Spokesperson Nikki Symington called the ruling “a positive development.”

In its initial action challenging the state, the Rincon band is seeking a declaratory judgment to settle the combined maximum amount of slot machine licenses available to California Indian tribes. The Rincon Band claims there are a sufficient number of licenses available in the statewide pool to allow the tribe to expand from 1,600 slot machines to the 2,000 cap set in a 1999 compact signed with the governor.