On behalf of the state’s Gambling Control Commission, California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a new, 25-year tribal gaming compacts with the Redding Rancheria and the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians.
Redding Rancheria’s previous gaming compact was most recently amended May 11, 2022, and took effect when ratified by the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and published in the Federal Register.
If all agencies follow their usual procedures, the new compacts should be approved and published in the Federal Register by late April or early May, noted Tracy Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of Redding Rancheria.
“Under the terms of the compact, Redding Rancheria will be able to support our current and future membership, support California’s non-gaming tribes and help fund local units of government” working cooperatively to provide law enforcement and fire suppression on tribal property, Edwards told A News Cafe on Tuesday.
The new compacts will allow both groups to operate up to two gaming facilities each on gaming eligible tribal lands for Nevada-style games, including up to 1,200 slot machines and an assortment of electronic games of chance as well as table games such as blackjack, roulette and poker, according to a copy of the compacts obtained by A News Cafe.
Each tribe would retain the right to acquire more land for future expansion and negotiate amendments to authorize gaming on those lands as well, Edwards said.
Since First Nation tribes are sovereign, casinos on tribal land do not pay taxes on earned income like most non-tribal business ventures.
However, at least in California, gaming compacts include a list of fees Indian casinos pay in lieu of taxes.
These payments help support local law enforcement, gambling addiction treatment facilities and programs, fire and first responder services, and other agencies each tribal unit chooses to support. Each compact determines the precise terms of payments and where payments go.
For Redding Rancheria, the compact states “neighboring jurisdictions shall include, but not be limited to Shasta County and its departments including Shasta County Fire, the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney. Also included is the City of Redding and its departments including Redding Fire Department, Redding Police Department, Redding Public Works, Redding Electric Utility and the city’s solid waste contractor, as well as the California Department of Transportation.”
In addition, the compacts spell out how each casino is to notify patrons of the programs available to combat gambling addiction.
Tribal casinos will “make available to patrons at conspicuous locations and ATMs in the gaming facility educational and informational materials that aim at the prevention of problem gambling and that specify where to find assistance, and shall display at conspicuous locations and at ATMs within the Gaming Facility signage bearing a toll-free helpline number where patrons may obtain assistance for gambling problems,” the compacts stipulate.
Similarly, all gaming patrons are to be properly informed as to how they can dispute aspects of electronic gaming if they believe there are problems, the compacts state.
“A patron who makes an oral or written complaint to personnel of the gaming operation over the play or operation of any game within three days of the play or operation at issue shall be notified in writing of the patron’s right to request in writing, within 15 days of the gaming operation’s written notification to the patron of that right, resolution of the dispute by the Tribal Gaming Agency, and if dissatisfied with the Tribal Gaming Agency’s resolution of the dispute, the right to seek resolution in the Tribe’s court system (Tribal Court).”
If the patron is not provided with such notification, the compacts continue, “within 30 days of the patron’s complaint, the deadlines herein shall be removed, leaving only the relevant statutes of limitations under California law that would otherwise apply.”
These two compacts also provide for regular contributions to the Revenue Sharing trust Fund, the Special Distribution Trust Fund and the Tribal Nation Grant Fund created by California’s legislators to allow discretionary distribution of collected funds from all Indian gaming activities to non-gaming and limited-gaming tribes.
The compacts also stipulate in detail how electronic gaming devises are tested, inspected and maintained according to strict state standards.
Per the compact: “The State Gaming Agency may inspect the Gaming Devices in operation at a Gaming Facility on a random basis to confirm that they operate and play properly pursuant to the applicable technical standards. The inspection may be conducted onsite or remotely as a desk audit and include all Gaming Device software, hardware, associated equipment, software maintenance records, and components critical to the operation of the Gaming Device.”
The state gaming agency, in turn, will work with the Tribal gaming agency to minimize unnecessary disruption to the gaming operations including, where appropriate, performing desk audits rather than onsite physical inspections, the compacts state.
“If the State Gaming Agency determines that an irregularity or finding in a prior inspection establishes a basis to return to the Gaming Facility for additional inspections, it shall immediately provide the Tribal Gaming Agency the basis for such finding and an opportunity for the issue to be resolved without an additional inspection,” the compact continues.
In California, there are 76 Indian casinos and five mini-casinos owned or operated by 73 of the state’s 109 recognized tribes, according to the 500 Nations website, which keeps track of all tribal gaming activities throughout the United States and Canada.
The aggregate annual revenues from those tribal gaming operations was slightly more than $9 billion in 2022, according to 500 Nations.
Southern California has 29 Indian casinos, while northern California has 47.
There are at least five more casinos in various stages of planning or construction, 500 Nations reports.
Nationally, 29 of 50 US states allow some form of Indian gaming, with 524 casinos owned or operated by 245 of the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes.
Annual revenues nationally from Indian gaming is greater than $32 billion, which represents 43 percent of all casino game revenue in the nation, 500 Nations reports.
Redding Rancheria is awaiting word from the Bureau of Indian Affairs whether the tribal land they have acquired during the past 25 years along Interstate 5, just south of Redding, will officially be moved from fee or taxable status to trust or non-taxable status for gaming purposes.
Once that happens, Redding Rancheria can move forward with its oft-announced plans to relocate their main casino to the so-called Strawberry Fields location west of I-5 and expand their casino operations with freeway access.
Rancheria officials hope to continue to operate a bingo hall where Win-River Casino & Resort now sits, along with alternative non-gaming uses for the remainder of the existing casino.