Bingo deal secures Indian rights, bolsters large non-profits

Legal News Line Aug. 21, 2008, 1:10pm

Jerry Brown (D)

Gil Cedillo (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)--California's Indian tribes and major charities have hammered out a deal that allows the charities to expand bingo operations without jeopardizing the tribes stranglehold over slot machines.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown had issued an opinion that prompted the California Bureau of Gambling Control to order charities to stop using electronic machines because they did not use paper cards, as required by state law.

The so-called "win win" deal would ban charities from operating electronic bingo machines, which the tribes have used its political muscle to fight for years, claiming it violated its constitutional rights to operate slot machines in the state.

In return for the deal, charities would be free to run bingo fundraisers at multiple sites by linking the sites through audio or telecasting. Much larger prizes would be the result.

The author of the bill, Sen. Gil Cedilo, D-Los Angeles, told The Sacramento Bee that the deal allows the charities to make more money while protecting the tribes' interests.

"We tried to craft this so they can make more money and offer more services to people," Cedilo told the newspaper.

The bill benefits major charities like the Catholic Church, but smaller charities not specified in the bill as legal operators could be cut out of the action altogether, according to lobbyists.

"Small charities ... will be devastated by this," Ravi Mehati, a lobbyist, said.

Gaining approval with the politically powerful Indian tribes was essential to the deal. Casino tribes, according to the Bee, are among the largest political contributors to California.

Revenue-sharing deals between the tribes and the state generate close to half a billion annually for the state.

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