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Thursday, July 8, 2004
Los Angeles Times 7-8-04
Tribe Loses Bid to Block Casino Pacts With Gov.
SAN DIEGO — A federal judge Wednesday rejected a request from an Indian tribe to block agreements between five other tribes and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would allow those tribes to greatly expand gambling operations in their casinos.
The Rincon San Luiseño Band of Mission Indians, owners of a San Diego County casino in rural Valley Center, had argued that allowing the other tribes to expand their casinos would undercut the Rincon casino's profitability. That would make it difficult for the tribe to repay initial operating expenses, it contended.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan, who heard arguments last week, said the five tribes, as sovereign entities, could not be sued by another tribe over their agreements with the governor.
Whelan ruled that nothing in the law required the governor to worry about an effect on the Rincon tribe when he reached agreements with the Viejas, Pauma and Pala bands in San Diego County and the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians and United Auburn Indian Community in the Sacramento area.
"Neither the governor nor the state has any duty — implied, inherent or otherwise — to consider any other tribe's interests when negotiating amended compacts," Whelan ruled.
Attorney Scott Crowell, who represents the Rincon band, said his client may appeal Whelan's denial of its request for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked the other tribes from adding slot machines and other features until the Rincon lawsuit was resolved.
"We have to express a degree of shock and surprise" at the ruling, Crowell said.
Schwarzenegger signed the agreements June 21. The pacts, which are subject to approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior, would run through 2030. In return, the tribes would pay the state $1 billion in the coming year and make annual payments to the state thereafter.
In a 16-page opinion, Whelan said the Rincon band would probably not prevail at trial and showed no indication that there would be public interest in the court's intervention. He also said the lawsuit was premature because the compacts had yet to receive final approval.
The state attorney general's office, representing the governor, has filed
a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case without a trial.
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