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Race against Pala Pact


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A record breaking signature campaign by 42 of California's 107 tribes for an initiative to fight the recent federally approved Pala Pact finished up with more than one million signatures, said supporters.

What is believed to be the fastest and costliest signature campaign in the history of the state will force Gov. Wilson to negotiate pacts that allow types of gambling now illegal in California if passed in November.

County registrars have begun counting and validating the signatures from the one month old campaign. Tribal leaders say the overwhelming support of more than one million Californians leaves no doubt that the measure will be on the November ballot.

"Our research has shown that, in the past 21 years, no initiative has qualified in such a short period of time," said Daniel Tucker, Sycuan, chairman of Californians for Indian Self-Reliance.

The total campaign, which also included expensive packets mailed to every registered voter in California, and a television campaign that went deep into the expensive L.A. market, cost reportedly $10 million.

"The tribes feel [the cost] is small when compared with what is at stake for their children and their grandchildren," said Waltona Manion, spokeswomen for CISR.

The initiative is an attempt to buy legal sanctioning for illegal gambling, said Gov. Wilson's spokesperson Sean Walsh.

"It attempts to turn California into a casino state without any safeguards for the state of California," said another administration spokesperson, Lisa Kalustian.

The proposed Tribal Government Gaming and Self-Sufficiency Act would reimburse the state for regulatory costs and require strict licensing and regulatory standards for tribal gaming facilities, which according to the CISR, would ensure the integrity of the games. It would also make tribal casinos subject to health and safety standards.

The measure would provide for revenue sharing of a portion of the proceeds among the non-gaming tribes for health care, education and economic development. It would also allocate revenue for emergency medical services statewide and for local programs in cities and counties where tribal gaming facilities are located.

According to Mr. Tucker, the initiative would allow the tribes that have games not covered by the Pala Pact to keep them. But, Paul Seave, U.S. attorney for the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California, said that the tribes can either agree to negotiate to a Pala-like pact or unplug their machines now.

The U.S. Justice Department has said that it will begin enforcing the rules against illegal machines on May 13. A few tribes, including the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians in Brooks, support the Pala Pact and have signed on to it.