Thursday, March 31, 2005

Urban areas are wrong place for tribal casinos



An Editorial in today's Torrance Daily Breeze...

Moves by Indian tribes to build gambling palaces in urban areas have rightly raised concern among legislators. Given the enormous profits that casinos can reap and the social ills that expanded gambling can bring, it's now up to lawmakers to put reasonable restrictions in place.
Los Angeles County must take the trend among tribes to "casino-shop" seriously. Copley News Service's Jim Sweeney has reported on the efforts of a Los Angeles resident to sell shares in an Indian casino that he claimed would be built in northern L.A. County. The man told potential investors he was seeking funds for a casino project for the Shasta Nation, a tribe based in Yreka. Shasta Nation denies involvement in the venture, and state regulators have ordered the man to desist.
The impacts of a tribal casino in the county would be decidedly negative: traffic, potential criminal activities, the need for more policing and more competition for existing gaming establishments such as card clubs and race tracks.
Legislative remedies, however, seem to be plentiful. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, drafted a bill that would toughen restrictions on tribes that want to build casinos far away from their ancestral homelands. But the bill would allow exceptions for landless tribes.
A proposed state initiative called the "No Urban Casino Act" would simply ban tribal casinos within 15 miles of urban areas as defined by the 2000 census.
And a proposed constitutional amendment by Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-Santa Rosa, would allow the state's voters to put a moratorium on gaming compacts until 2008. In the interim, the state would carry out a wide-ranging review of California gaming, including issues such as public safety, environmental impacts, local government oversight and financial effects.
Whichever course lawmakers decide to take, they need to ensure that L.A. and other urban areas have the power to blunt efforts to place mini-Las Vegases within their borders. That's clearly not what most California residents envisioned when they voted to allow expanded reservation gambling.


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