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Could’ve Played Cards Better
With pure leadership and charisma, reinforced by overwhelming
popularity, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been dealt what seems like a
golden hand by California’s Indian casinos.
Yes, at first glance, the governor’s cards appear tough to beat,
though dealers — Indian gaming interests — could retain a crucial ace
in the hole.
As proposed, tribes have agreed to share an estimated $250 million
annually with the state, along with pouring an immediate $1 billion into
our cash-strapped treasury.
In return, Indian casinos could install an unlimited amount of slot
machines; up to 2,000 are allowed under current regulations.
Clearly, the governor got what looks like a critical windfall in
terrible times. But did California gamblers — veteran plungers and
blue-haired day trippers — get a fair deal?
For unlike in Nevada, New Jersey and a host of other gaming locales,
betting at California’s Indian casinos is unregulated by officially
sanctioned watchdogs. The state has no inspectors monitoring complex
computerized slots or table games. Regrettably, the governor’s proposed
compact leaves the subject of inspections woefully alone. Remember,
Indian reservations are, for all intents and purposes, foreign
countries. Tribes possess sovereign immunity, complete with their own
police and judicial systems.
So at Indian casinos, machines pay, well, what owners want them to
pay, as little as 75 per cent of cash deposited.. Their computer chips
are adjusted to dispense jackpots according to private formulas. There
are no surprise visits from thoroughly trained regulators. No one with a
badge ever checks the dice.
Now, this is not to say the casinos run rigged games. It’s hard —
maybe impossible — to stay in the gambling business without winners.
Customers need hope. New gamblers need inspiration.
Moreover, corporate gambling requires confidence: widely publicized
rules, laws, inspections and strict police background checks for
employees. All these are absent from reservation wagering.
Take the case of slot machines. In Nevada, there is a state
requirement that casino disclose how much gamblers can win — on
average, approximately 95 cents out of each dollar bet. In New Jersey,
returns can range from about 91 to 92 cents. Casinos in those states can
pay more — and some do — but those are the minimums. (For Nevada, you
can even go online for a list of gambling hall payouts.) So what about
returns on our reservations? At the moment, without legal minimums or
disclosure rules, they remain tribal mysteries.
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2004 Online Casino News Archive