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by: Gene Koprowski.
California lawmakers are back this week in Sacramento and are planning an expansion of gambling in the state, as interest from several Indian tribes drives the emerging political debate.

The plans could double the number of slot machines in California, the most populous state in the U.S.

According to the governor's office, five southern California Indian tribes have already struck deals with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) that could increase their slot machines from 10,000 to 22,500 in the coming years.

The tribes would give the state an increased share of the profits, as part of the deals. These agreements would usher in an era with casinos there boasting "twice as many slots" as the biggest in Las Vegas, experts said.

The proposals are expected to clear the Senate with the encouragement of President pro Tem Don Perata, Democrat of Oakland, whose political accounts have taken in nearly $1 million from casino-owning tribes over the past two years.

The only concerns being raised are from Democrats, who have been the main beneficiaries of campaign cash from unions and tribes. The growth of a tribal gambling industry estimated to generate $7 billion a year is at stake. More than 58,000 slot machines are operated in California by 54 tribes, experts said.

Biggest in the World?

"This would be probably one of the largest expansions of Las Vegas-style gambling anywhere in the world -- thousands of additional machines," said Assemblyman Mark Leno, (D-San Francisco).

The Senate will take up the proposals this week.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, who campaigned for governor on a promise to get a "fair share" of tribal gambling money for the state, negotiated the deals last summer as he ran for re-election.

The tribes involved are as follows: the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which owns two casinos in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage; the Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians near Palm Springs; the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in Temecula; the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in San Bernardino; and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego County, according to the governor's office.

© Copyright 2007 Gene Koprowski's material. It may not be published, broadcasted, rewritten, or redistributed.
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