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Two Tribes Betting Big On Gambling $400,000 Spent On Campaign To Get Initiative 651 On Ballot

Two Indian tribes are pumping big money into their campaign to bring unrestricted gambling - including slot machines - to Washington.

Records at the state Public Disclosure Commission showed Wednesday that the Puyallup and Spokane tribes have poured more than $400,000 into the campaign to get Initiative 651 on the November ballot. The Shoalwater tribe also supports the proposal but does not show up as a contributor.

The PDC records show that more than $120,000 has been spent so far to pay people to gather the 181,667 signatures of registered voters needed to get the initiative on the ballot. The signatures must be gathered by July 7, and backers say they have no doubt they will succeed.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to secure a partnership between the tribes and the people of Washington,” said Russell Lafountaine, spokesman for “Yes on 651.”

Gambling on Indian lands is currently permitted but tightly controlled by the state. Initiative foes fear that voter approval would usher in slot machines and other gambling activities now banned in Washington.

“This initiative would open Washington to wide-open Las Vegas-style casino gambling,” said Stan Shore, head of The Committee Against Unrestricted Gambling, which has formed to fight the initiative. “It would take away any state authority to limit types of games, their size or location. We would have megacasinos along the I-5 and I-90 corridors.”

Shore said his group includes nonprofit charitable bingo halls, the Christian Coalition, tavern owners, several state legislators and businesses.

Shore, a former official with state Senate Republicans, said foes have raised about $120,000. “We are not going to be able to match the other side dollar for dollar. We know that,” he said.

Lafountaine disputed the notion that “gambling interests” are behind the campaign.

He said he was surprised at the opposition, especially by Republicans and conservatives.