Politics

Election 2014 FAQ: Prop 48 — Indian gaming compacts

In this file photo, a patron plays a slots machine Friday, Oct. 22, 2004, at the SPA Resort Casino in Palm Springs, Calif. Proposition 48 would allow the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to establish a new casino with up to 2,000 slot machines in Madera County.
In this file photo, a patron plays a slots machine Friday, Oct. 22, 2004, at the SPA Resort Casino in Palm Springs, Calif. Proposition 48 would allow the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to establish a new casino with up to 2,000 slot machines in Madera County.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

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Proposition 48 is a referendum on Assembly Bill 277, a bill passed by the legislature in June 2013 to approve gaming compacts between the state and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe. It was placed on the ballot by voter petition and gives voters the final say in whether to approve or reject the compacts.

Who's behind this ballot measure?

Cheryl Schmit, director of the gambling watchdog group Stand Up for California, was the proponent behind Prop 48.

When voters approved Prop 1A in 2000, they modified the state constitution to allow Indian tribes to operate casinos on Indian land, subject to compacts that must be negotiated by the governor, ratified by the legislature and approved by the federal government.

Schmit’s organization has opposed casino projects in the past, though it does not oppose Indian gaming outright. It claims instead to advocate for close collaboration and input from the various stakeholders — non-Indian citizens, counties, tribal governments. It also argues for stricter regulations, including patron and employee protections, environmental protections and mitigation agreements with local governments affected by the presence of casinos.

That said, Schmit has resisted attempts by the North Fork Rancheria to open its casino in Madera County since at least 2011, arguing that the project represents an attempt to get around federal and state laws to create an off-reservation casino in violation of Prop 1A.

Prop 48 represents an attempt to overturn AB 277 and stop the casinos from being built — in effect, a people’s veto. But because of the way referendums are phrased to voters, a “yes” vote allows AB 277 to stand and a “no” vote repeals it (more on this later). Therefore, Schmit is campaigning against Prop 48.

What will it do?

If approved, Prop 48 would:

A map from the Legislative Analyst’s Office shows the locations of existing and proposed casinos:

How is this different from existing laws?

Prop 48 doesn’t directly change the rules governing Indian gaming in the state. That said, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office, currently:

How much will it cost taxpayers?

The LAO reports there is some uncertainty in calculating Prop 48’s fiscal impact, which depends at least in part on how well the casino does, but it estimates:

More: Read the full LAO analysis

How much money's being spent on the campaigns?

Who's supporting it and why?

North Fork, along with Station Casinos — which is the tribe's partner on the project, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise — have all but self-funded the campaign to pass Prop 48. Station Casinos already operates nearly two dozen casinos in Nevada, California and Michigan.

The California Democratic Party and two fundraising committees backed by labor unions have contributed relatively small amounts to the campaign.

Other key supporters include Gov. Jerry Brown (who approved the compact in the first place); Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Madera County Board of Supervisors; and Robbie Hunter, president of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California.

Supporters argue the new gaming compacts will:

They have also made the argument that Schmit earlier “recognized the merits of this project site,” though that characterization is suspect. In 2006, she told a reporter she had not yet taken a position on the matter.

More: Yes on 48 campaign

Who's opposing it and why?

Opponents have far outspent supporters of Prop 48, with much of the money coming from other casino-owning Indian tribes or their affiliates.

Table Mountain Rancheria, which stands to see increased competition from the new North Fork facility, had donated more than $3.5 million to the No on 48 campaign, as of September 24, 2014. Compare that with the less than $400,000 combined contributions made by all of the measure’s supporters.

The second largest donor to the No on 48 campaign was Brigade Capital Management, with about $2.7 million in contributions. According to the Fresno Bee, Brigade backs the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, another opponent of the compacts.

Other key opponents include Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea; Madera County Supervisor David Rogers; Manuel Cunha Jr., president of Nisei Farmers League; and Gary Archuleta, tribal chairman of Mooretown Rancheria.

Opponents argue that Prop 48:

More: No on 48 campaign

…a YES vote means…

You approve of the gaming compacts permitting the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to build a new casino in Madera County and allowing the Wiyot Tribe to partake in a share of the profits.

…a NO vote means…

You reject the gaming compacts — North Fork will not be allowed to build its planned casino, and both the North Fork and Wiyot tribes would need to renegotiate their compacts with the state if they wanted to pursue gaming in the future.

What else is being reported on this measure?

How would you vote?

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