Column: Lining up for the jackpot in California

"The thing politicians like best about legal gambling is that it's an opportunity to put their fingers in your pockets without leaving prints.

Take the lottery. You plunk down a buck for a ticket. About 65 percent of the money goes for prizes and running the lottery, and the rest goes to public education. They don't spell this out on your ticket, lest you decide that what could be viewed as a 54 percent tax rate is a little steep.

Which brings us to the state Senate Governmental Organization Committee. The panel spent two days this week listening to testimony about deals that would collectively give five Indian tribes up to 22,500 more slot machines (on top of the 10,000 or so they already have), and one tribe 99 slot machines (on top of the none it already has).

The deals were hammered out between the tribes and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last summer but stalled in the last days of the legislative session and are thus back again.

The committee heard from tribal chairmen, union officials, ministers and even a mother of seven who tearfully contended she was fired from her casino job because she went to the bathroom without permission.

What they didn't hear was a really compelling public policy reason to approve the deals. Wait, there was one: Once the extra slots are in and operating, the state would get from $200 million to $500 million a year, depending on whose figures you believe.

Using the $500 million figure, supplied by the guv, it means the deals would cover about half a percent of the state's annual operating budget."

Get the Story:
Steve Wiegand: Lining up for jackpot in Capitol (The Sacramento Bee 4/14)