California Proposition 96, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation Gaming Compact (2008)

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California Proposition 96 is a veto referendum that sought to nullify a gaming compact enacted in early 2007 between the state of California and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. It is one of four extremely similar ballot measures that will appear simultaneously on the February 5, 2008 statewide special presidential primary ballot in California.

Proposition 96 won with 55.5% of the vote--which means that the state law was not overturned. [1]

All four similar gaming compact measures allow certain Native American tribes in California to add additional slot machines in exchange for giving the state government a higher percentage of their profits from the new slot machines. The four ballot measures differ only in which tribe they refer to and how many slot machines that tribe would be allowed to add if the measure is successful.

Proposition 96 pertains to the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. If it passes, Prop. 96 will:

  1. Allow the tribe to add an additional 3,000 slot machines in the two casinos it already operates. In those two casinos, it currently operates 2,000 slot machines.
  2. The tribe would pay at least $23,000,000 annually under the contract, as well as a percentage of the revenue generated from the additional slot machines to the state. Currently, the state of California receives about $5,000,000 from operation of the tribe's existing 2,000 slot machines.[2]
  3. Under the new compact, the tribe agrees to enter into an enforceable agreement to "reduce or avoid significant environmental impacts and to pay for increased public service costs, or go to arbitration to settle disagreements on these issues." This is a stronger degree of regulation than exists in the 1999 gaming compacts that would be supplanted by Proposition 95.

Proposition 96 is one of seven ballot measures that California voters will have a chance to accept or reject on February 5 when they also go to the polls to vote in their party's presidential nominating election.

The 1999 compact

In 1999, the Governor and 58 tribes, including the Sycuan tribe, reached agreements on casino compacts, which were also approved by the state legislature and under federal agreement. These compact established that tribes have exclusive rights to operate certain gambling activities in California.

Currently the Sycuan Tribe:

  • Sycuan Tribe Now Pays About $29 Million Per Year to the State
  • Give $2.3 million annually to the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF)
  • $2.6 million to the Special Distribution Fund (SDF) which covers shortfalls in the RSTF, funding programs that assist people with gambling problems, paying costs of state agencies that regulate tribal casinos, and making grants to local governments affected by tribal casinos.
  • Currently, neither the state nor a tribe is subject to California Environmental Quality Act {CEQA) requirements when a casino is built.
  • Union relations currently are that the tribe must give Unions that want to organize employees of casinos access to the employees. Both the tribe and the union can express their opinions so long as they do not threaten employees, use force against them, or promise benefits. Before a union can represent employees in negotiations with the tribe, it must win a secret ballot election of the employees.[3]

Fiscal Impact

If voters approve this proposition the tribe’s annual payments to the state would increase by tens of millions of dollars, potentially resulting in total payments to the state of well over $100 million annually by 2030.[4]

Support Approval of the Referendum

The Coalition to Protect California's Budget & Economy is the leading proponent of this proposition, but Governor Schwarzenegger and his administration have been working building the "compact" with the Sycuan Tribe and 3 other tribes since last year.

The Coalition argues that the new compacts will:

  • Raise $200 million the first year (with revenues increasing significantly in future years) and an estimated $9 billion over the next two decades to help balance the budget and pay for schools, roads and bridges, public safety and health care
  • Create thousands of jobs for California
  • Strengthen environment and employee protections

Other support

Others that are supporting Prop. 94 include Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O'Connell and Gene Gantt of the California Fire Chiefs Association.[5]

Support Rejection of the Referendum

The proponent of the proposition is Jack Gribbon of the UNITE-HERE Coalition, representing Union who are angered that the tribes refused the collective bargaining terms discussed with Governor Schwarzenegger during the compact negotiations.[6], [7]

The media has reported that the Hollywood Park and Bay meadows horse tracks and a handful of equally powerful Indian gaming tribes will also bankroll the referendum campaign fearing that competition could shut their business down.[8]

Funding the opposition campaign

Garry South, a political adviser of opposing tribes has estimated that any campaign will be expensive-as much as $80 million.[9]So far the tribes have raised $56 million to promote the compacts while the opposition has raised a total near $15 million.[10]

The Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park horse-racing tracks; the Pala Band of Mission Indians in northern San Diego County and the United Auburn Indian Community near Sacramento, have spent millions to overturn the compacts under Tribes for Fair Play and Fair Public Policy Coalition. The United Auburn Indian Community contributed $4.5 million to the effort, the largest single donation to oppose the compacts.[11]

Other Opposition of the Referendum includes:

Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, John Gomez of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization, Residents Against Gaming Expansion and Lenny Goldberg of the California Tax Reform Association.

Arguments against the compacts

Californians Against Unfair Deals argues the following reasons to oppose the compacts:[12]

  • Fail to include clear and fair revenue sharing plans
  • The deals would make California home to some of the largest casinos in the world, with more than twice as many slot machines as the big Vegas casinos.
  • One third of the states gaming business would be given to 4 of 108 tribes and could economically devastate smaller tribes
  • The new compacts fail to let communities protest over the possible environmental impact on the area
  • The 4 tribes with a history of denying affordable health care to their employees.
  • The deals let the Big 4 tribes manipulate the “revenue sharing formula” and underpay the state.


Proposition 96 has been approved by the Secretary of State and will be appearing the February 2008 ballot.

See also

External links