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Tribal leaders hope to negotiate in California

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. ? Two prominent tribal leaders are upset with Governor Davis for refusing to exercise a meet and confer option in the state gaming compact.

Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro, the spokesman behind the Proposition 1A campaign, and San Manuel chairman Deron Marquez say they have been trying for a year to resolve issues with Davis regarding what they say are three of the five original unresolved issues with the state.

"We're looking for some closure on these issues, but we can't get it until the governor meets with us," said Marquez.

An official joint press release from the tribes states that they originally exercised Section Nine of the compacts they negotiated with the governor. Section Nine gives tribes the right to initiate a meet-and-confer process with the governor's office.

A series of meetings took place over the subsequent months, but only two of the five issues were resolved.

The first of these issues gave tribes the right to operate their own regulatory agencies in regard to gaming and established jurisdictional boundaries between the state Department of Justice and its Division of Gambling Control and the Gambling Control Commission, which is appointed by the governor.

The second resolved issue had been a point of major dispute amid charges of duplication of services. Though the issue of jurisdiction has been resolved, Macarro and Marquez both say they are concerned with the expansion of the Gambling Control Commission and the scope of authority it is assuming, which the tribal leaders say was not granted in the compact.

"The Gambling Control Commission is trying to assume full authority. The compact, however, only gives them a ministerial role," said Macarro.

Marquez claims that the Gambling Control Commission is gearing up to set up field offices across the state and take sole control of the licensing process, which he says is not permitted.

Furthermore, Macarro and Marquez point to three unresolved issues. The first of these is a claim that the state has "unduly" held up disbursing money to non-gaming tribes, who, under terms of the compact, are supposed to receive money from the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.

The final unresolved issue is over what Marquez and Macarro claim is a "unilateral" attempt by the state to control licensing of gaming devices. They claim that the compact only gives the Commission a clearly defined ministerial role in which the state only has authority when requested by the tribe.

Section 7.3 of the compact states that a tribe may request the assistance of the Commission, called the State Gaming Agency in the language of the compact when it "reasonably appears that such assistance may be necessary ? or otherwise to protect public health, safety, or welfare."

Hillary McLean, a spokeswoman for Davis, confirms that the governor's office received a letter requesting to meet and confer with the governor. She declined further comment.

In regard to the alleged power grab by the Gambling Control Commission, McLean says she does not believe that the Commission has acted outside its scope of authority.

"The Gambling Control Commission has only taken action as proscribed by the Compacts and state laws," said McLean.

For now, Macarro and Marquez will wait for Davis' response before deciding on a course of action.

On Aug. 10, however, Gov. Davis lifted his moratorium on discussing new casino agreements with Indian tribes after a federal court ruled in favor of the state's Indian gambling law. Lawyers for the state concluded that the state now has the legal backing to proceed with the negotiations, said a spokeswoman.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that Proposition 1A violates no federal laws. The state's card rooms are appealing the decision.

At least 10 tribes have been waiting to negotiate gambling compacts, the Associated Press reported on Aug 10. Davis originally imposed the ban last year after four San Francisco Bay-area card rooms challenged the gaming law by arguing that it gives tribes a commercial gaming monopoly.

Forty-eight tribes currently operate 49 casinos statewide.