SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The economic fates of the Yurok and Quechan tribes,
separated by nearly 1,000 miles and located in diametrically opposed ends
of California, are now linked following Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's June
16 announcement that compacts signed by the tribes might yield the greatest
number of concessions to the state to date.
"[The compacts] give the tribes the ability to achieve greater
self-reliance while also providing the state and local communities with the
resources and protections they require," said Schwarzenegger in a press
release announcing the new deals.
Given each tribe's relative geographic isolation, neither tribe expects to
open large casinos. Quechan is allowed to top out at 1,100 machines and
Yurok, a meager 350. This stands in stark contrast to compacts that
Schwarzenegger negotiated last year with several tribes that allowed for
almost unlimited growth should the gaming markets sustain them.
Interestingly, Quechan and Yurok are also among the state's largest tribes
in terms of membership. Quechan has over 3,000 members and Yurok over
Schwarzengger's legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, acknowledged that
there has been "significant" opposition to earlier deals in which unlimited
expansion was allowed. This was perhaps a reference not only to
Schwarzenegger's earlier deals, but also to a proposed large-scale casino
near Oakland by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians.
Though Schwarzenegger signed a compact with Lytton last year, the state
Legislature has refused to ratify it.
The new compacts call for about 10 percent of net winnings to go to the
state. They are arranged on a sliding scale of winnings that could
theoretically top out at 25 percent, though it is unlikely either tribe
would generate the kind of revenue that would force them to do so, given
their limited operations and remote locations.
In effect, the state will take in 10 percent of revenues for the first $50
million of net win, 14 percent if the net win increases to the $50 - $100
million range and 22 percent between $150 - $200 million, topping off at 25
percent over $200 million. Additionally, the net win below $50 million
would increase to 12 percent if tribal membership (in the case of Quechan)
falls below 2,500.
Yurok must keep its membership to at least 4,000 so it can deduct any money
paid locally from its payments to the state.
Ultimately, Schwarzenegger's staff said that they expect the state to take
in around $7 million in revenues from the two compacts.
The new compacts also allow for greater environmental and labor
concessions, and both allow for the right of employees to organize and
collectively bargain. Quechan's compact even allows for the right of
employees to strike.
Also, in a first-of-its-kind concession, Quechan will allow a state agency
- in this case the California Occupational Safety and Health Organization -
to enforce state safety standards at the tribe's casino.
Another requirement of the new compacts is that both tribes negotiate with
local governments for deals regarding off-reservation impacts caused by the
tribe's casinos. These provisions would include local agreements for public
safety and emergency medical services.
The compacts will not be official until the state Legislature ratifies them
and will only become finalized when the U.S. Department of Interior signs
off on the ratified deals.