The Desert Sun, Palm Springs Calfornia


Valley Voice: Tribal gaming insinuations unacceptable

By Frank R. Jozwiak
Special to The Desert Sun
October 22, 2004

As an attorney whose firm represents several California Indian gaming tribes, I object to the misleading and inaccurate opinion submitted by Todd Harris that appeared in the Oct. 16 edition of The Desert Sun . The article states that the nine tribes who have entered into new gaming agreements with the current governor have stepped up and are working as partners with the governor "to help California out of its fiscal mess."

Since when did the Indian tribes assume responsibility for Californiaís "fiscal mess"? What did California do to help the Indian tribes before casino gaming allowed tribes to become economically self-sufficient? Why does the writer believe that the tribes have this responsibility to the state?

The letter states that if Proposition 70 passes, tribes will be allowed to build as many casinos as they want, with the only requirement being that those casinos be built on Indian land. In the very next paragraph, the letter states that under Proposition 70, "the governor will be required to approve virtually every request for a new Indian casino that crosses his desk." However, that second statement is qualified by the first. The governor does not have to approve any request for an Indian casino that is to be built on other than Indian land and, under federal law, the governor has an absolute veto over acquisition of lands within the state by Indian tribes for gaming purposes.

The next paragraph, where the writer insinuates that Proposition 70 will allow Indian casinos "right in your downtown," must be qualified by the requirement that the tribe must first own trust land within "your downtown" before a casino can be approved and the governor can veto the Indianís purchase. How many California towns or cities currently own Indian trust land in their downtown where casinos can be developed without further approval of the governor? I suspect very few, if any.

The main controversy surrounding urban Indian casinos has to do with off-reservation acquisition of land for gaming purposes by the tribes and the governorís apparent willingness to approve those acquisitions so long as the tribes agree to pay obscene amounts of money to the state, ostensibly to help the governor solve Californiaís "fiscal mess."

Finally, the writer claims that the tribes sponsoring Proposition 70 will not be paying their "fair share" to the state, whatever that means. Even though the tribes would agree to pay the equivalent of the corporate business tax, a tax that many corporations evade, both legally and otherwise, through tax loopholes, exemptions, etc., the writer insinuates that the Indians would cheat or would cook their books or otherwise withhold payment from the state illegally.

Why does the writer believe that Indians are likely to cheat the state? Does the writer have a twinge of guilt about the treatment of Indians by the non-Indian dominant society over the last 200 years? Does he think the Indians will now seek revenge? Or does he just simply think that Indians should not be trusted? That kind of racist attack on Indians is unacceptable and should not form the basis for an opinion in your newspaper or any other newspaper.

Frank R. Jozwiak is an attorney for Morisset, Schlosser, Jozwiak & McGaw.