CSAC Bulletin Article

Governor Brown Signs Gaming Compacts with Eight Tribes

September 15, 2016

Governor Brown signed bills this week ratifying new or amended gaming compacts he had negotiated with eight California tribes. The compacts are required under federal law in order for the tribes to operate slot machines and certain types of card games in California. As the Governor’s press release notes, the Governor previously signed bills ratifying compacts with three other tribes in 2016, for a total of thirteen compacts ratified during the 2015-16 legislative session.

CSAC has consistently advocated for gaming compacts that ensure the costs of mitigating the off-reservation impacts of tribal gaming, which range from public safety services, to infrastructure needs, and environmental concerns, are addressed through binding agreements with local governments. The new agreements make significant progress in addressing these key issues for local governments affected by gaming projects.

While each of the new gaming compacts has individual nuances, the provisions related to local government agreements follow a similar format. The compacts require a process wherein tribes identify and attempt to mitigate the off-reservation impacts of a gaming project in consultation with the affected local governments, as well as a requirement for binding agreements to ensure that the agreed upon mitigation measures are enacted. In addition, the agreements include financial incentivizes for tribes to work with counties and the surrounding community to support mutually beneficial projects and services beyond what is required for mitigation under the local mitigation agreements.

Several of the tribes with these newly-approved compacts were already operating their gaming facilities pursuant to compacts that included such a mitigation process. The majority of tribal gaming facilities in California, however, operate under compacts from 1999. These agreements did not include a specific requirement for local government mitigation agreements, instead relying on a state-centered process to address the impacts.

Unfortunately, the State’s Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund (SDF) has suffered from a persistent structural deficit. This has resulted in no funding for grants to mitigate local government impacts from gaming authorized under 1999 compacts since fiscal year 2013-14, despite continued significant financial contributions to the fund from tribes operating gaming facilities under most of the state’s gaming compacts.

CSAC will continue to advocate for a process to ensure that local government impacts are mitigated in new or amended compacts—especially as the soon-to-expire 1999 agreements are renewed. While changes in the most recently-approved gaming compacts are likely to help address some of the structural issues that have prevented local government mitigation grants from the SDF, it is vitally important for counties that additional compacts continue to include a process to locally mitigate the impacts of gaming projects.

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