The cost of casinos

When California voters approved Proposition 1A in 2000, which changed the state Constitution to allow gaming on Indian lands, they were led to believe that doing so would result in only a modest increase in the number of casinos and that they would be located only in remote rural locations.

Today, it’s fair to say, we’re looking at the Nevadization of California. There are now 54 casinos, some of them huge outfits located close by major metropolitan areas. Collectively they have more than 60,000 slot machines and revenues estimated at more than $6 billion annually, though exact figures are unknowable because the tribes are considered sovereign nations and don’t have to reveal their earnings.

That’s enough casinos already. Unfortunately, however, two initiatives on the November ballot would result in even more.

Proposition 68, backed by non-Indian card room and race track owners, would require tribal casino owners to agree to a tax of 25 percent on their revenues within 90 days of passage. If they refused, as they surely would, those same card room and race track owners would be allowed to install up to 30,000 taxable slot machines in their facilities, expanding casinos into metropolitan areas.

Proposition 70, backed by a small group of successful gaming tribes, would allow tribes to run as many casinos and slot machines as they wanted and add now-prohibited craps and roulette tables in return for paying a flat 8.25 percent corporate income tax.

Casinos come with high costs, both fiscal—on traffic, for water and sewer facilities, in increased police and fire protection—and social, in increased gambling addiction and its consequences. Both initiatives should be defeated, and the state should begin working toward a logical gaming policy that is fair to all and lessens the casinos’ environmental impact.