SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After months of negotiations the second and third tribal/ state compacts to allocate money to the state of California General Fund have been signed.
At a press conference on Sept. 9, the office of Gov. Gray Davis announced that two fairly low profile tribes, the La Posta Band of Mission Indians and the Santa Ysabel Band of Digueno Mission Indians had agreed to terms with the state to commence gaming operations. Both tribes are located in San Diego County.
Under the terms of their new compacts, each tribe is allowed to operate a casino with 350 machines.
"This (agreement) will help us with our future, help us economically and provide for a better education for our people," said Johnny Hernadez, chairman of Santa Ysabel.
In addition to the provision allowing for money to go into the General Fund, the compact also allows for third party insurance claims. Both of these moves are regarded as potentially controversial.
Though gaming tribes pay into two funds set up by the state they do not pay into the General Fund. Currently tribes pay into a fund that is distributed among the state's poorer tribes and into another fund earmarked for local communities to provide mitigation for casino projects.
Shortly after announcing a $38 billion budget deficit earlier in the year, Gov. Davis signaled his intention to net $1.5 billion from tribes in the latest round of compact negotiations. That figure was later revised to a little more than half that amount.
However, the governor is still a long way from his goal and it is rumored that the state is still needs to net nearly $600 million from tribes with money for the General Fund in order to make Davis' goal.
Davis is walking a political tightrope as he struggles to maintain tribal support in the face of a recall election, which features Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, long a tribal ally and a recipient of the lion's share of tribal donations during this unorthodox political season in California.
The deal is likely also to further raise eyebrows from some tribes who may see the agreement as giving away too much sovereignty in the General Fund and insurance agreements. Furthermore, the tribes agreed to enter into written agreements with local governments before casino construction.
In fact, it is only in these three provisions that the compact is significantly different from the original compacts signed in 1999. However, it is a potentially significant difference that is causing concern in some quarters.
"This is not a cookie cutter approach," said Barry Goode, secretary of Legal Affairs for Gov. Davis in reference to the similarities of the first round of compacts.
Despite potential concern from other tribes, both Santa Ysabel's Hernandez and James Hill, spokesman for La Posta, reported that they had just attended a meeting with the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, the largest tribal gaming lobby group in the state, and said that they had received a warm welcome at the announcement with a round of applause.
Both men also claimed that these agreements were fully within their sovereign rights and said that they signed the agreements that worked best for them.
These compacts largely mirror last month's agreement with Torres-Martinez. All three of these tribes had not previously operated casinos. The question remains whether any of the tribes who signed the 1999 agreements and are currently in re-negotiation with the state will also agree to contribute to the General Fund.