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Washington Voters Reject Indian Gambling

Washington state voters, who had been offered a piece of the action if they approved all-night slot machines and video poker at American Indian casinos, overwhelmingly rejected the proposal Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a proposal to merge Spokane’s city and county governments was trailing in early returns, 57 percent to 42 percent, but county voters were narrowly favoring a proposal to raise the sales tax by one-tenth of 1 percent to expand jail and juvenile justice facilities.

The result in the statewide gambling initiative “was a vote against unrestricted, big-time gambling,” said Washington Lt. Gov. Joel Pritchard, a liberal Republican who led the opposition forces.

Indian casino operators, looking for a way to lift their tribes from grinding poverty, had appealed to voters’ pocketbooks in two ways: They said welfare costs would plummet, and they promised a share of the profits - estimated at $100 each year per voter.

The measure needed 60 percent approval, since it involved expansion of gambling. But as the early votes were tallied, it wasn’t getting even 30 percent.

Blackjack, bingo, roulette and poker are the most popular games at the state’s eight casinos now operating. Tribes said they needed the highly profitable slots and video poker for their casinos to generate enough revenue to build resorts.

In another Washington state vote, a measure that would force government to pay citizens for property value lost to regulation was failing, 56 percent to 44 percent, in early returns.

Referendum 48, the toughest “takings” measure in the nation, also would require government to pay costs now borne by developers, such as for studies and maps. And it would require governments to study the economic impacts of any proposed regulations and choose those with the least impact.

Passage would mark the most sweeping victory for the property rights movement since its birth in the 1980s as a mostly rural sentiment.

Foes of the measure said it was so poorly written that virtually any new regulation - from plumbing codes to a zoning overhaul - could trigger a demand for money, costing taxpayers billions of dollars over the years.

Backers called the assertions scare talk, and contended the measure would curb government’s hunger to regulate at great financial cost to landowners.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo