Editorial: Tribes should pay for impacts of casinos

"Among the unfortunate aspects of Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget is its reliance on a vast expansion of tribal casino gambling to reinforce the state's revenues. There's nothing wrong with consenting adults enjoying a game of chance, but counting on a jackpot is no substitute for fiscal discipline, especially when the growth of California's Indian reservation gambling industry has far outpaced the state's ability to plan and pay for its effects.

With the state's highest concentration of tribal casinos, San Diego County has felt that impact, for better and for worse, more than most. The infusion of cash into North County's reservations is certainly better for the lives and lifestyles of our region's original residents, and tribes in turn have reinvested in their surrounding communities. But better still would be levels of investment that reflect the transformative effect the casinos have had on the backcountry.

As part of the 2003 compact it signed with then-Gov. Gray Davis, the Santa Ysabel band agreed to pay San Diego County to offset its casino's impacts. That resulted in the small tribe anteing up some $320,000 per year for law enforcement-related costs, plus another $300,000 to pay for problem gambling treatment and prevention.

This last contribution is especially important; as the state's casinos have expanded, so has the number of Californians whose gambling addiction make their lives miserable. A statewide survey released in February revealed that our region is home to the highest concentration of these unfortunate souls, gambling more and more with less and less money.

While we welcome contributions like Santa Ysabel's toward problem-gambling treatment, they are a mere drop in the bucket of what California needs. Tribes are picking up the entire $3 million annual budget for the state's Office of Problem and Pathological Gambling -- which works out to about $3 each for the state's estimated one million problem gamblers. The tribes and the state aren't paying enough to help those whose fortunes suffer the most when new opportunities arise to gamble their savings away."

Get the Story:
Editorial: New slots and familiar problems (The North County Times 5/23)