On April 11th, 2008, the Rincon Indian Tribe’s conflict with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for more slot machines at its casino north of the Valley Center has reached the state courts.
The federal appeals court recently questioned why a San Diego Federal Judge dismissed a part of the tribe’s lawsuit against Gov. Schwarzenegger. Also two weeks from now, a tribal official is set to speak out before the state Senate panel on a proposal that would give permission to the tribe to increase the number of their slot machines without renegotiating their gambling compact that was signed back in 1999.
Whatever will be the result of the lawsuit, Rincon’s goal has effect for Indian tribes all over the state of California. At the center of the issue is the statewide limit on the number of slot machines that Indian tribes can offer under the 1999 gaming compact. The state limit is only 32,151. Rincon and other Indian tribes commented that the limit should be set much higher. Rincon Vice Chairman Bo Mazzetti commented that the issue here us about fairness. If Rincon wins in this issue, it will be able to host an additional 400 slot machines.
The proposal by Sen. Jim Battin from Palm Desert that the Rincon tribe supports would increase the number of licenses all over the state at 122,000. It would need the signature of the governor. The tribe’s goal puts it in direct conflict not only with Gov. Schwarzenegger but with several other American Indian tribes with the biggest casino facilities in San Diego County. The legal effects of that problem were discussed by a three-judge panel of the ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel reviewed the cases filed by the Rincon tribe and by the Colusa Indian Band from north of Sacramento.
Both tribes had filed a case against the governor and in both lawsuits, federal judges in lower courts said that they could not decide on the issue without asking the side of the sixty other tribes with casinos in the state. The lower court judges found out that the other Indian tribes were necessary because they have valid interests that would be severely affected if the state caps for the slot machines will be change. But the Indian tribes possess immunity, which means they cannot be sued without giving due permission. So the federal judges have dismissed the lawsuit claims of the two tribes.