Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkley) bill A.B. 2412 would allow counties throughout California to hold an advisory election to provide voters the opportunity to voice their opinions on the establishment of urban casinos. The bill would mandate reimbursement by the state of all financial costs imposed on the county.
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Some federal lawmakers are determined to modify federal Indian gaming regulations due to growing concerns nationwide that loopholes in the law are allowing some tribes to impose casinos on local communities that don’t want them. Tribes are ranging far from their own lands to acquire property – often in urban areas – to entitle and use for huge new casinos. Even landless tribes and tribes with no reservations are shopping for land to build casinos, overpowering the will of local communities. Bills in both the House and Senate would update the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), imposing more effective and appropriate controls on a business that has grown to $20 billion a year.
Many Indian tribes circumvent state regulations by exercising their federal rights and operating Class 2 Indian gaming machines under the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This has become a trend in many states that do not permit “casino-style” gambling or have not agreed to a compact with the Governor, in order to bypass state regulations and local appeals. However, there is almost no visible distinction between state regulated Class 2 “bingo-style” machines, and Class 3 “Las Vegas style” slot machines.
Today, approximately 44 tribes in California are reservation shopping for casino sites. Tribes in the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara County, Madera, Garden Grove, and San Diego County have already submitted applications requesting land in urban areas, with more to follow. A number of tribes have rejected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gaming compact provisions. The push for Class 2 Indian casino gaming for tribes to operate under federal regulation to avoid tribal-state compacts will only continue unless legislators push back.
Current steps the federal government is doing to stop urban casinos:
Senator Dianne Feinstein has drafted S.113 that would keep slot machines out of San Pablo, California.
Senator John McCain has introduced bill S. 2078 to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to clarify the authority of the National Indian Gaming Commission to regulate Class III gaming, to limit the lands eligible for gaming, and for other purposes.
Representative Richard Pombo has circulated bill H.R 4893 that would limit off-reservation casinos to two “economic opportunity zones” in each state.
Representative Jim Costa has submitted H.R. 5125 to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to limit the Secretary of the Interior from approving a Tribal-State gaming compact unless the State involved has its own law that provides for a gaming master plan
According to news reports, the Bush Administration is preparing legislation that would change how Class II machines are defined.