California | Compacts | Opinion
Column: Gambling on California's future

"To watch the endless television ads, one would think that the four Indian gaming measures on the Feb. 5 ballot were all about raising money to save the state budget.

In fact, tribal casinos will barely dent California's fiscal crisis. But the ballot fight over Propositions 94-97 raises profound questions about whether the state should continue its rapid rise toward becoming the nation's casino gambling leader.

Indian tribes hold the monopoly on California casino gambling. In 2006, they brought in an estimated $7.7 billion, according to the Indian Gaming Industry report. That number, the net after paying out winnings, has more than doubled in just six years.

Today, California leads the nation in Indian casino gambling with 30 percent of the revenues. When commercial casinos are added in, only Nevada, at $12.6 billion, has more gaming revenue than California.

At the same time, there's a societal cost. At least 750,000 California adults have moderate to severe gambling problems, according to a 2006 state report. It found the prevalence of issues, such as betting addiction and committing illegal acts to finance gambling, surpasses the national average.

Against that backdrop, voters will decide the fate of proposed casino expansions for four Southern California tribes. Each currently has 2,000 slot machines. Two would be allowed to expand to 5,000 and two to 7,500. In comparison, the Nevada casino with the most slots, the Red Rock in Las Vegas, has 3,225. A typical big-name casino in that state has 2,000-2,600 slots."

Get the Story:
Daniel Borenstein : Do we gamble on the future? (The Contra Costa Times 1/13)

Another Story:
Stakes are high in casino referendums (The Californian 1/13)