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by: Glenn Haussman. Slots.

California is one step closer to the largest increase of legalized gambling in the state�s history.

This week, the state’s senate approved a measure which would allow select Indian operated to increase the number of slot machines in the state by 22,500.

Last year, the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a compact with five tribes in order to plug holes in California’s annual budget. He hopes the machines will up and running before the budget year starts in July. Part of the also provides provisions for other games such as a poker to be permitted, with the state taking a larger percent of the take through increased taxes. If installed, the machines are expected to bring in about $500 million in new tax money. The state is dealing an estimated $1.3 billion budget gap.

The compacts are with the Sycuan, Pechanga, Agua Caliente of Palm Springs, San Manuel of San Bernardino County and Morongo of east Riverside County. Right now they can operate 2,000 slot machines each, but with the new deal that would rise sharply. The Pechanga, San Manuel and Morongo could have up to 7,500 slots each in up to two casinos while the Sycuan and Agua Caliente could have a total of 5,000 slots each. The Agua Caliente will also be permitted to open another facility.

This would make these casinos some of the largest in the world, in numbers of gaming machines in a single place. However, there is one significant hurdle yet to be overcome, as the democratic controlled assembly has scoffed at approving the deal.

In fact, it looks like the stars have aligned that will set up a bitter legislative fight. “I hope the tribes don't conclude that simply because the Senate ratified the compacts, that somehow gives them momentum or makes me or the speaker change our minds,” Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont told Copley News Service. “If anything, we're more entrenched in our position.”

Them’s fighting words!

Governor Schwarzenegger issued a statement on Thursday that tried to persuade the Assembly to pass the legislation. “I applaud the Senate for approving the compacts I negotiated in good faith with these sovereign nations. I believe these compacts are good for the state, the tribes and the local communities. While each compact is unique, we have been able to enhance collaboration between local governments, mitigate environmental impacts and generate significant revenue for the state.

“I urge the Assembly to quickly adopt these compacts which will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the state in funds for education, health care and public safety. Every additional day of delay costs the state millions of dollars for critical services that Californians rely upon,” said Schwarzenegger.   

Jack Gribbon, California political director for Unite Here, which is on the anti-legislation side had his fair share of political rhetoric which he dished out to the AP. "We're talking about an extraordinarily wealthy industry that's been very willing to throw its weight around ... If we do not oppose this now, I don't know why we would exist. At stake are the rights of 50,000 workers to address living wages, health care and job security for the next 23 years."

California voters approved Proposition 1A in 2000, allowing the governor to negotiate compacts with Indian tribes to operate slot machines and other casino games. The agreements must be ratified by the Legislature.

Lawmakers approved 57 compacts negotiated by former Gov. Gray Davis in 1999, in anticipation the measure would pass. More compacts and amendments to the agreements were approved in 2003 and 2004. Until Thursday, nine compacts Schwarzenegger had signed since 2004 had awaited legislative approval.

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