Column: California tribes learn to play the game

"You'd think the millions of dollars the tribes deposit in the state coffer would be enough incentive for our selfless representatives in Sacramento to allow American Indians pretty much free rein when it comes to operating their casinos on their land.

That, as any real businessman knows, isn't how it works. You've got to pay the vigorish, or "vig," as the bookies say.

In the "polite" society of politics, that is called a campaign donation.

The bottom line here is this: We tell American Indians, in this case the Pechanga, it is OK to give the bum's rush to members they want out -- members, by the way, whose lineage was affirmed by the tribe's own hired expert -- but, they need to come money-in-our-pockets for approval to do as they please in their nation.

You'd think that if they are sovereign enough to control who is a tribal member, they would be sovereign enough to exercise self-determination in all matters, including filling the whole reservation with slot machines if they so desire.

You'd think, but then that would require us to give up the only sure bet we have when it comes to winning at their casinos."

Get the Story:
Phil Strickland: Indians play well the hand they're dealt (The Californian 4/14)