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Two California gaming leaders continue fight over compact

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HIGHLAND, Calif. - Two of southern California's most prosperous gaming tribes are continuing their fight against what they call the state of California's breach of the Tribal-State Gaming Compacts.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians announced June 30 that they would appeal the U.S. District Court's recent decision to dismiss their joint lawsuit against the state of California.

The two tribes brought suit against Davis on Oct. 28, 2002, alleging that he failed to honor the "meet and confer" provisions of their compacts.

Tribal leaders complained that the District Court's recent ruling gave no reason for this dismissal and cited no findings.

"We were not given any indication of the reasoning behind the dismissal of the lawsuit," said Deron Marquez, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. "By appealing, we seek the Court of Appeal's assistance in compelling the State to keep its promises to our tribal governments by at least agreeing to a meet and confer so that the issues can be discussed and worked out together.

"Both our tribes have continued to uphold our end of compact agreements and expect the same treatment in return."

The lawsuit, which was amended in January 2003, challenged actions by the State that the tribes said violated their reserved sovereign rights and their compact rights.

One major claim alleged that the State had failed to manage properly the millions of dollars set aside by tribes that engage in gaming, including San Manuel and Pechanga, for distribution to the state's poorest tribes as the compact required.

Other issues concerned the State's unilateral actions in determining the method for calculating payments due from tribes and for drawing device licenses and determining the total number available. The suit said the Compact required these processes to be developed jointly with the tribes.

Marquez told Indian Country Today that the Compact provided for the tribes to bring suit in federal District Court if its talks with the governor broke down. So the failure of the District Court to justify its decision required the tribes to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It was two brief sentences saying they are dismissing the case," Marquez said of the District Court decision.