Tag Archives: Agua Caliente

Don’t Let “Signature Blockers” Intimidate You on California Tribal Casino Referendum

Cross posted from:  California Progress Report


A little intimidation could go a long way.

Cheryl SchmitThat’s my impression after a lunch hour of signature gathering on Sacramento’s K Street Mall and it’s an additional reason to be very upset by paid campaign workers hired to interfere with attempts to put the unfair Big 4 gambling compacts before voters on the February ballot.

Wednesday I joined other signature gatherers downtown to share with reporters what I witnessed at my local grocery store and I am more convinced than ever that those who try to block Californians from signing petitions to put measures on the ballot are the very enemies of democracy.

To start at the beginning, the Legislature recently ratified new compacts with four of the richest and most powerful – and, not coincidentally, largest campaign contributors – among California tribes: Morongo, Agua Caliente, Pechanga and Sycuan.

These outrageous agreements would allow one of the largest expansions of gambling in U.S. history. Some of the casinos allowed would hold two and a half times the number of slot machines of the largest Las Vegas casinos!

The unfair compacts would result in the Big 4 tribes receiving a third of California’s gambling pie. They are four out of 108 tribes in the state.

Perhaps worst of all, the compacts fail to provide taxpayers with a fair and accountable share of revenues with a payment system that is ripe for manipulation.

As we gathered the necessary signatures to referend these new gambling schemes, a paid “blocker” working for the Big 4 showed up. He was polite and friendly, but he knew there would be news media present.

That was a far cry from what I experienced in my hometown.

Standing outside my neighborhood grocery store, a signature gatherer was inviting voters to sign the referendum petitions. That’s when I saw him, one large man, slowly pacing back and forth in front of the table, literally blocking people from seeing what the petitions were actually about. Moments later, he verbally challenged the signature gatherer, questioning if he even had the right to gather signatures.

I learned, the man putting himself between voters and petitions was only “doing his job.” Those Big 4 tribes, with the new compacts, have hired an army of “Signature Blockers” to try and stop you from reading and signing the petition to place those unfair compacts on the ballot and ultimately stop you from voting on this issue.

While these blocking tactics are somewhat unusual, it is no surprise. The gambling deal politicians gave the four rich casino-owning tribes are a bad deal for California and those tribes know it! The Big 4 tribes are afraid that voter scrutiny will mean defeat of these unfair schemes.

The Big 4 compacts represent a dramatic shift in California’s Indian gaming policy and the long-standing gambling policy of this state.

While the unfair compacts would concentrate a full third of the state’s gambling revenue pie in the hands of just these four tribes, representing fewer than 2,100 individuals, less than .07% of our states total Indian population, they do nothing to increase the share of gambling revenue that goes to non-gaming tribes. On top of it, the flawed agreements include a growth inducing fee formula that ensures larger and larger casinos for these four money-flooded tribes.

What they don’t ensure is that the state will see its share of money promised in the compacts. Previous compacts had a transparent fee per machine plan that allowed all parties to complete a simple task of counting machines and applying the agreed upon fee structure. Moreover, this transparent fee per machine discourages the proliferation of slot machines and is consistent with the limited exception voters granted Indian tribes in 2000.

The unfair Big 4 Gambling Compacts have a new scheme. The scheme would allow the tribes to declare the “net win” per machine and then pay a percentage of the self-regulated amount to the state.

There is currently a lawsuit by a former agent of the state gambling commission which is raising many of the concerns people have with a “net win” formula that was in earlier 1999 compacts. Later compacts resolved that issue by relying instead on an accountable, easily verifiable per machine fee. Sadly, the Big 4 deals did not include that more accountable fee structure.

Here’s how a San Francisco Chronicle editorial described the problem with the Big 4 compacts: “They’re horrible deals for the state. … They allow the tribes themselves – instead of an independent auditor – to determine the amount of net winnings that would be subject to revenue sharing with the state.”

While it is possible to have an honest difference of opinion about the Big 4 compacts, it is difficult to understand why some feel the need to engage in misguided activities to try and undermine the effort to put the agreements before voters.

Should you experience any blocking effort that makes you feel uncomfortable participating in what every California voter should understand is his and her right to vote on these matters, then please report the problem to the Secretary of State’s voter fraud hotline at (800) ) 345-VOTE (8683).

I was encouraged by my experience Wednesday realizing that California voters are very familiar with their referendum/initiative/recall powers and want to participate. It was also clear that paid thugs like those hired by the Big 4 tribes could easily scare away intimidated voters.

Please stand up for our rights, report intimidation and join us in February by voting down the unfair Big 4 gambling compacts which will send them back to the negotiating table.

Cheryl A. Schmit is the Founder and Director of Stand Up for California and has been involved with issues associated with Indian gaming for many years. Stand Up For California acts as a resource of information to community groups as well as local, state and federal policy makers. Her activism includes speaking engagements to community groups, local government and professional organizations. She has organized and hosted conferences in Sacramento. She sits on the Tribal County Advisory Committee in Placer County developed to provide a public forum and voice in the ongoing developments of the United Auburn Indian Community gaming facility.