Letter: Responding to article about Habematolel Pomo compact

"Your story on the Department of the Interior's disapproval of the Upper Lake Rancheria's Class III gaming compact contains a couple of factual errors.

Specifically the article states as follows: “The Interior secretary previously signed four ballot measures allowing four of the state's largest gaming tribes – Pechanga, Agua Caliente, Morongo and Sycuan – to expand their operations in exchange for $300 million in revenue to the state annually. 'Those guys aren't paying the money that they promised they were going to pay,' Schmit pointed out.”

These two sentences contain multiple misstatements: 1) the Secretary of the Interior did not sign any ballot measures; 2) the Compact Amendments that the voters approved in Propositions 94-97 did not obligate those tribes to pay $300 million to the State each year – the aggregate payments to the state on those tribes' existing machines was about $150 million (including the San Manuel Compact Amendment, which was not on the ballot), and higher payments would be due only if the tribes added machines, and because of the economic downturn, fewer machines have been added than had been hoped and anticipated; 3) the Sycuan Compact Amendment never has taken effect; 4) the state has not claimed that the tribes are failing to pay what is owed under the Compact Amendments; and 5) none of the Prop. 94097 Compact Amendments actually was approved by the Secretary of the Interior, who failed to take action on them within 45 days, thus deeming them approved to the extent consistent with IGRA.

As for "what's in it for the state now?", the state is obligated to negotiate in good faith, and through such negotiations may participate in the regulation of the tribe's gaming (for which the state is entitled to be compensated), otherwise protect its legitimate interests and receive the financial and other benefits that flow from the employment that tribal gaming facilities and offshoot businesses provide to surrounding communities. Congress never intended that the states be able to use tribal governments as cash cows for their general funds."

Get the Story:
George Forman: Addressing errors in Habematolel story (The Lake County News 10/6)

Related Stories:
BIA rejects casino compact for Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake (8/23)
Habematolel Pomo await BIA approval for gaming compact (6/1)