Statewide Survey Shows Californians Continue to Overwhelmingly Approve Tribal Government Gaming by 78 Percent

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Statewide Survey Shows Californians Continue to Overwhelmingly Approve Tribal Government Gaming by 78 Percent

August 1, 2001

In a recently conducted statewide survey, Californians continue to support Indian self-sufficiency through casino-type gambling by a margin of 78 percent. In many areas of the state, such as San Diego County that has seven gaming operations on Indian reservations, the percentage of support is as high as 80 percent. Los Angeles County voters registered as strong supporters of Indian gaming at 82 percent, as did the Sacramento area at 68 percent.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) commissioned the statewide survey, conducted during the last two weeks of June, 2001, by the national opinion research firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates.

“We asked Californians to assist us in getting our compacts and they overwhelmingly expressed their support of tribal gaming with their passage of Proposition 1A in March, 2000. We believe we must keep good faith with the voters,” said Daniel Tucker, chairman of CNIGA’s 76-member tribal organization. “To keep good faith, we need to know what people understand and believe about our gaming operations and about our agreement with the governor and the state.”

According to Tucker, CNIGA members were pleased with the results of the survey, which included 1,200 respondents.

“We have always believed the people of California supported tribal government gaming for reasons that went beyond whether gaming generated revenue for the state or that they liked to gamble. The survey confirmed that Californians continue to see Indian-operated gaming as an issue of justice, fairness and a means of creating economic independence for tribal governments,” he reported.

When asked why a respondent would vote again for Proposition1A, the state constitutional amendment that legalized casino gambling for tribal governments on reservations, 75 percent cited reasons of fairness and equity. (Example: “Indians have had a raw deal for years, it’s their land, let them do what they want on their land.”)

49 percent of survey respondents said they support tribal government gaming because it brings financial security, revenues to tribal communities and Indians have a right to be self-sufficient. Among the positive benefits of Indian gaming, 85 percent of the respondents, identified jobs for both Indians and non-Indians and 79 percent said that tribal government gaming provided a controlled and policed gaming environment.

The survey showed that 73 percent found Indian casinos an attractive form of entertainment and 79 percent agreed tribal government gaming kept betting dollars in California.

In contrast, a majority of California voters rejected the idea of expanding casino gambling beyond Indian reservations -- specifically slot machines to horse racing tracks and card clubs -- by 57 percent and 54 percent respectively.

“We wanted to assess public support for card clubs, since at this moment, club owners are suing to overturn Proposition 1A and the right of Indians to offer gaming on reservation land. They are attempting to subvert the will of California voters and trying to change state law to allow machines in commercial, not government enterprises,” reported Tucker. “The results continue to show little public sympathy for the claims of card club owners that tribal governments should not have the same right as the state to use gaming to generate funds.”

“While voters were positive about tribal government gaming, the voters also showed us where they have priorities and concerns,” noted Anthony R. Pico, chairman of the CNIGA communications committee. “As tribal leaders we believe listening respectfully to the public teaches us how to uphold and continue to improve our unique relationship with the people of California, and we welcome good information.”

Concern that casinos encourage people to gamble who can’t afford to lose money was “strongly” felt by 34 percent of the voters surveyed.

“This,” Pico reported, “translated into overwhelming support -- 81percent -- for using the gaming revenue sent to the state by the tribes to provide funds for programs that deal with gambling addiction.”

According to Pico, in addition to funding state regulation of tribal gaming, the tribes insisted that the compact authorize monies forwarded to the state by the tribes be used for three basic purposes: 1) to fund problem gambling prevention programs; 2) reimbursements to local governments for off-reservation impacts caused by casinos, like traffic; and 3) to cover shortfalls in the revenue sharing fund for tribes that do not have gaming. “Today, funding these programs are priorities the public shares with the tribes,” said Pico.

More than 80 percent of the voters surveyed want money from the state’s special distribution fund to provide for programs that deal with gambling addiction; 78 percent want these funds also used to reimburse local governments for the cost of services provided to Indian casinos; and 72 percent supported protecting the revenue sharing agreement between gaming and non-gaming tribes by attaching funds from this account to cover shortfalls in the revenue sharing fund.

Across the state, 64 percent of Californians surveyed believe that tribal government gaming is “adequately regulated by tribal governments;” 62 percent believe tribal gaming operations take into account local environmental requirements and that tribal gaming operations are in “careful compliance with the agreement made by the tribes with the state government;” and 59 percent believe that Indian casinos “work and coordinate with nearby local governments.”

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