Richard Milanovich, Agua Caliente tribal leader, dies at 69

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

In this 2006 file photo, Tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich watches as a gaming compact agreement reached with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fails to get approval from the state Assembly, at the Capitol in Sacramento.

Southern California tribal leader Richard Milanovich, who oversaw the Agua Caliente tribe's nearly three-decade rise from poverty to casino riches, has died of cancer at 69. Milanovich died Sunday at a Rancho Mirage hospital.

The Riverside County tribe, which has 32,000 acres of reservation land in the desert Coachella Valley east of Los Angeles, operates the Spa Casino in Palm Springs and the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise says Milanovich was an early proponent of Las Vegas-style gambling on California tribal lands.

California tribes bankrolled Proposition 5 in 1998 to legalize gambling. The measure passed, but it was later ruled unconstitutional.

Tribal leaders tried again and negotiated casino pacts with then-Gov. Gray Davis.

In 2000, voters approved Proposition 1A, which put the pacts in place.

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