A panel of three judges in the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop the increase of slot machine licenses for Native American casinos in the state. While permitting the slot licensing to go forward, the judges turned down a claim made by state attorneys that the slots would cause trouble for the tribes, including traffic congestion and a spike in crime.
According to Stephen Warren Solomon, an attorney representing the tribal operators of the Valley View Casino, the tribe will put the additional slot licenses to use “as soon as possible”. He also mentioned that the tribe has plans for a hotel in conjunction with the casino and that tribal leaders are “ready to go”. Valley View will soon have two thousand slot machines, up from just fewer than five hundred now.
One aspect of the dispute comes from Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2003 campaign, when he told voters that he would make tribal leaders “pay their fair share” of gambling revenues generated on reservation casinos to help aid the state during its budget crisis. Governor Schwarzenegger called for much larger payments from tribal casinos than had his predecessor, Gray Davis, and also called for tribal cooperation with local governments.
Governor Schwarzenegger also sought to use the tribal casino’s request for more slot licenses as a bargaining chip in the negotiations over payments due to the state. A federal judge ruled against the state in August, but Schwarzenegger wanted to delay the process until next year. The appeals court panel refused to allow for the delay, so the California Gambling Control Commission must make the licenses available immediately.
Given the state of the economy, especially in a state beset by budget problems like California, the increase in slot licenses may not be such a boon. Each slot license costs the tribe US$1,250. With gaming revenues down all over the world, any tribal casinos themselves that are looking to expand their banks of slot machines may be in for a big gamble themselves.