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Leaders cheer victories in California

LAS VEGAS - Supporters of Proposition 68, a California ballot initiative to
end the state's Indian tribes' monopoly on slot machines and force tribes
to pay 25 percent of their earnings to local governments, have pulled the
plug on their campaign and admitted defeat.

Although the measure will still appear on the November ballot, backers of
Prop 68 said that despite spending $24 millions on "pay your far share"
advertising they knew it was a no-win situation. Initiative supporters now
reportedly plan to file a lawsuit blocking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from
signing new gambling compacts with tribes. The former actor and now
governor was urging California voters to defeat both Proposition 68 and
Proposition 70, another anti-gambling measure aimed at stifling the
expansion of tribal casinos in the Golden State.

It was the second major victory for California tribes within a week and
couldn't have been more perfectly timed as thousands of American Indians
were in Las Vegas for the Global Gaming Expo Oct. 5 - 7, the industry's
largest trade show of the year.

Just days earlier the Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal filed by
four San Francisco-area card clubs challenging whether states can let
tribes operate casinos while prohibiting other private businesses from
doing so. The court rejected the argument saying tribes are sovereign
nations and protecting under the law.

News of the Prop 68 concession was well received at the gaming conference,
which broke attendance records with more than 26,000 attendees.

"This proves there is strength in unity," said Keller George, the president
of United South & Eastern Tribes during, ironically, a seminar on
California sovereignty on Oct. 7. "Exercise your sovereignty. It's just
like a muscle if you don't use it, it will go away. But you have to be
cognizant of how you use it because what you do for your tribes will be
used against other tribes. My message is fight them. Don't fall down before
you get hit. If we stand together, strong, united, I guarantee we will

Anthony Miranda, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming
Association, agreed saying it was the tribes coming together to form a
strong barrier that forced the propositions supporters to abandon their

"What's happening in California is unique," said Miranda. "Every tribe in
California opposed proposition 68 and last night they gave up. If we can
stand united in California we can stand united everywhere."

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Then during the Tribal Leaders Roundtable later that day, Mark Macarro,
chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula, Calif.,
weighed in on the issue. "It shows you can't buy an election, so they threw
in the towel," Macarro said. "It's really good news for us."

Macarro went on to defend California tribes' rights to operate casinos
calling it a means toward independence adding that tribes should not be a
"rug mat to history."

"We have risen above that," Macarro said. "Tribal gaming provides us the
means to protect ourselves, the means to advocate for ourselves. It's an
economic base for us. Not to wield influence in Sacramento or Washington,
D.C. It's not having a casino just to make money. These things are tools
for us to protect ourselves so we can survive the next generation as a
tribal people."

Macarro called the future of Indian gaming "purposeful," but admits he sees
more political battles in the future. "While we had victory yesterday in
California, we're bracing for the next round."

National Congress of American Indians President Tex Hall said tribal
nations have come a long way in the past 60 years, but warned leaders not
to be complacent.

"We haven't won everything," Hall told the forum "We need to protect our
sovereignty, our right to game the way that we feel we should conduct our
gaming operations. The architects of our future are in this room. No state
legislature, no governor, nobody in Congress, nobody in the White House
will tell us what our sovereignty, what our future is, but we must be
united. If we stay united we will prevail."

Proposition 68, if successful, would have expanded gambling at 16 race
tracks and card rooms allowing them to operate 30,000 slot machines.

Miranda concluded, "Anytime the tribes have something of value, people have
tried to take it away."