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Tony Batt

Increase for California Gambling Machines Approved

15 July 2004

WASHINGTON, DC -- Sen. Harry Reid was absent Wednesday when a Senate panel approved legislation that Reid had blocked for three months and which would increase the number of electronic gambling machines allowed in California tribal casinos.

The measure, which was was being considered by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, passed by a unanimous voice vote.

Afterward, Reid issued a statement saying he still opposes the bill and will continue negotiating for changes as it advances to the Senate floor.

"The bill amends the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 to fundamentally upset the balance the act struck between the interests of tribes and the states," Reid said in the statement.

Reid also has charged electronic bingo, pull tabs and other forms of Class II Indian gambling that do not require state approval would be exempt from federal regulation under Campbell's bill.

The bill would require state officials, during negotiations with tribes, to agree to limits on how much money states could collect from Indian casinos.

For example, states would be allowed to collect Indian casino funds only after bills for tribal government operations and programs were paid. If states provide economic benefits to tribes, they would be allowed to tax their gambling operations.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., the committee chairman and chief sponsor of the bill, noted Reid's opposition just before the voice vote.

"I might say that Senator Reid had several concerns with this bill and we've agreed that we would try and address his concerns before the bill comes to the floor. He is not here," Campbell said.

Sources said Nevada casinos are worried about Campbell's bill, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in March to reject appeals for a review of the legality of Class II gambling operations.

The concern is that these developments could lead to an even greater surge in the already explosive growth in California Indian casinos of gambling machines that appear to be slot machines but are not subject to state regulation.

Reid blocked passage of the bill in April by demanding a quorum, which was not present. Campbell also agreed to postpone a June 16 vote on the bill at Reid's request.