Friday, September 01, 2006

Governor’s Push to Expand Indian Casinos Fails in California

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 1 — What would have been among the largest expansions of Indian gambling in recent years, a major goal of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was defeated by the California Legislature on Thursday after heavy lobbying by union groups frustrated by efforts to organize workers at the casinos.

It may be a temporary setback for the governor and tribal groups, who have promised to push again for the expansion next year. Legislative leaders, who have been generally supportive of Indian gambling, also suggested they would be open to similar plans down the road.

But for now, Mr. Schwarzenegger and the tribes, who had been negotiating for a couple of years, stand empty-handed.

One bill passed in one legislative chamber but failed in the other, and lawmakers declined to take up five bills ratifying six compacts the governor had signed that would have allowed for some 20,000 new slot machines on several reservations, in addition to the 60,000 already there.

The compacts are another sign of the explosive growth of the Indian gambling industry, whose revenues have grown nationwide to $22.7 billion last year from $5.5 billion a decade ago, enriching many tribes. The Indian casinos, many aping the flash and entertainment of the Las Vegas Strip, typically serve the masses unable or unwilling to go to Las Vegas or casinos in other states.