Pechanga Tribe Launches a New Ad in Its Fight against Proposition 48 in California
Proposition 48 is a controversial gaming bill on the November ballot in California this year. The referendum would approve a state-tribal compact of a Madera tribal casino. Opponents of Proposition 48 have launched an ad campaign that has received significant criticism.
One of the controversial aspects of the anti-Proposition 48 commercials is the fact the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians is behind the ads. The chairman of the Pechanga Band, Mark Macarro, appears in one of the advertisements to make a plea to California voters. In the ad, Macarro calls for residents to vote against the Madera tribe’s proposed casino.
Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians
The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians is one of the richest and most influential Native American tribes in California. The Pechanga Casino Resort in Temecula is a 200,000 square foot complex which contains 3,800 gaming machines, 175 table games, a large poker area, 11 restaurants, 3 bars, and a 517-room hotel. Each year, the Pechanga Band collects tens of millions of dollars in revenues from their casino.
Now, their wealth is being used to maintain their position as one of the leading casinos in the state, while keeping the Madera Tribe in virtual poverty. This has offended many Californians, though it is still uncertain if the anger will be enough to effect results at the polling booth this next Tuesday.
Pechanga Anti-Casino Commercial
The text of the Pechanga Prop 48 ad reads: “More than a decade ago, we promised to limit casinos to existing tribal land. And you voted overwhelmingly to approve tribal gaming based on that promise. Now, Proposition 48 would allow a Nevada gambling company to use a rural tribe to build a casino on off-reservation land. Forty-eight would set a bad precedent, allowing off-reservation casinos. You trusted us to keep our word, and we honor that trust. That’s why tribes throughout California ask you to vote no on 48. Thank you.”
According to the Sacramento Bee, the Pechanga Band has spent over $1 million on ads against Proposition 48. The Native American tribes have contributed almost all of the $15.3 million the anti-Prop 48 forces have collected. Meanwhile, the pro-Proposition 48 side of the debate has only collected only $470,000 to get out its word. The Indian tribes want to keep out the competition, even if it is fellow Native Americans who stand to lose if Prop 48 is defeated.
Table Mountain Rancheria in Friant
The biggest donor is Table Mountain Rancheria in Friant, which owns a casino 26 miles from the proposed Madera Casino. The Table Mountain Rancheria Indians have contributed $10 million to defeat Proposition 48, which should show how much their leaders estimate a new casino would cost their own gambling operation.
The Pechanga, Table Mountain Rancheria, and other tribal gaming operators argue that Proposition 48 goes against earlier promises by the state to limit casino building to those tribes accepted year ago.
Analysis of the Ad
Mark Macarro mentions in the ad that the original 1998 legislation promised “to limit casinos to existing tribal land”. When one looks at the wording of the original Proposition 5 referendum, no such promises were made. The laws required land to be a part of a tribal reservation, but no restrictions were made on what the federal government could designate as reservation lands. Since that time, existing tribes have added to their lands through the federal process.
The case of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, who hope to open the Madera Casino, is different in only one way. Most of the other cases involved adding to reservation lands that were adjacent or near the original reservation. In the case of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, the land is 40 miles away. So when the existing casino gaming tribes saw the U.S. Department of the Interior place in trust some 305 acres of land off Highway 99 in Madera, they became concerned about the precedent being set.
They are right to point out something new is being done, but the tribal gaming establishment of California is overstating its case. No promises are being broken, while the same federal authorization process is being used that has enriched the casino tribes in the past. Also, the people of California did not vote overwhelmingly to limit gambling to the existing tribal lands. They won the vote, but it was hardly overwhelming, and it was not on the promise of limitations to the 1998 reservation lands.
Nevada-Based Gaming Company
One reference that’s gotten significant criticism is the refernence to the Nevada-based gaming company which is supposedly “using” the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians for their selfish gains. The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians have a charter and a gaming commission, which chose to partner with the successful Station Casinos brand that has 17 gaming operations throughout the United States.
Station Casino is a legitimate gaming company with a good reputation, and they are entering a business relationship on the Madera Casino like many such relationships in the industry. Station Casinos has contributed $370,000 to the Proposition 48 cause, but that is dwarfed by the funds let loose by their opponents. It is obvious what motivates the Pechanga and the Table Mountain Indians: the threat of new competition.
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