Opinion: Indian gaming is big business in California

"Indian gambling has become a huge economic and political force in California. A 2005 report by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said that Indian gambling in California produces $5.1 billion in revenues a year. Tribes use that money to gain political influence; in 1988, they spent around $30 million in support of Proposition 5, which permitted Indian casinos to operate Nevada-style gambling, like slot machines, if the tribe entered into a compact with the state of California — essentially legalizing Indian gaming. Now gaming tribes donate generously to the campaign chests and political action committees of California politicians.

Representative George Miller, who in 2000 helped push through a law giving special dispensation to the Lytton Tribe to open a casino in San Pablo, has already received $12,000 in contributions from various tribes for his 2010 re-election campaign. The Guidiville Band of Pomos has spent $80,000 on lobbying efforts the last five years, and its development partner has spent an additional $85,000. But when a casino like the one proposed for Point Molate can bring in $500 million a year, those expenditures seem paltry.

So the merits of any single application to move Indian lands into trust to create a casino are never judged solely on their face. All this convoluted history inevitably plays a role in the decision-making."

Get the Story:
Frances Dinkelspiel: American Indians and the California Dream (The New York Times 2/11)