Opinion: Following the gaming money in California

"Speaking of legislators, I thought you might be interested in some information I just received about the influence on our legislators that is derived from casinos. The two biggest arguments given to allow the growth of casinos nationwide is first, the enormous amount of money and jobs that will be generated for that state and, second, the enormous amount of self-sufficiency that will be generated for the members of the tribe.

All of this sounds good on paper until one starts to follow the money. I have been astonished to learn through a variety of sources that some tribal leaders, somewhat like our politicians, prefer to feather their own nests before those of their fellow tribespeople leaving them in the same poverty that the casino was supposed to eradicate. Thus there are casino owning members who still rely on foodstamps and welfare to get by while others buy new cars every other week. Perhaps that is why our President has given millions of dollars to casino-owning tribes. So where is all of this new found wealth going? According to a San Jose Mercury News Editorial from 2/11/10, the three top national political donors are Indian tribes with gambling interests including two from California. Six of the top ten largest donors were Indian tribes spending $160 million. In comparison, SEIU spent $35 million and the National Association of Realtors spent $28 million.

While the Morongo Band of Mission Indians is trying to persuade legislators to license internet poker, concern is being expressed regarding the potential increase in gambling addiction and criminal activity. At the same time we are being told that an increase in slot machines was supposed to pay the state enough money to keep it solvent, somehow this has not materialized. This was the promise made to the California voters that persuaded them to support the expansion. Is this something like the lottery that was going to save our educational system? It seems that whatever it needed was not an allowed expense and therefore the billions that have gone into that system have vanished as well. Maybe we voters need to smarten up and stop supporting these phony claims and start being responsible for ourselves."

Get the Story:
On The Ranch: Follow the money [second item] (The Santa Ynez Valley Journal 2/18)