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State A Big Loser In Gambling Plan

The three Indian tribes behind Washington state Initiative 651 are trying to bribe and dupe voters into supporting unregulated gambling.

They (the Spokane, Puyallup and Shoalwater Bay tribes) want you to think the measure will bring jobs and prosperity to the state’s 26 tribes - and a little kickback for voters, too.

But this harmful initiative will benefit just a few tribes, while opening Washington’s doors wide for Las Vegas-style gambling and organized crime. That’s why almost half of Washington’s tribes oppose it.

You should be against it, too.

The initiative removes state restrictions on the types of games, wagers, facilities, hours and gambling devices. The state would be allowed to inspect casinos but only after giving 48 hours advance notice. In exchange for this cart blanche authority to gamble, the tribes are offering voters an annual dividend check from 10 percent of their proceeds.

Significantly, gambling interests contributed $400,000 to purchase the necessary initiative signatures. And that’s not the only thing that stinks here.

For starters, unregulated gambling will attract organized crime and encourage such social problems as loan-sharking, extortion and fraud. Already, one in 20 Washingtonians is a compulsive gambler - the second highest percentage in the nation.

Secondly, the initiative speaks of locating casinos on “Indian lands within the state’s borders.” The loose wording would allow a tribe to establish a casino on or off its reservation - even on tribal lands within communities.

Third, this initiative likely would kill the monopoly that Washington’s Indian tribes now have on small-casino gambling.

Fifteen tribes have signed compacts that allow them regulated games with close state oversight. Many of these tribes, particularly the ones in rural areas, wouldn’t be able to compete with tribes offering glitzy Las Vegas-style casinos and slot machines. Further competition could be expected from non-Indian interests who’d lobby hard to open their own casinos.

Finally, the three tribes are offering the moon by promising to pay voters up to $100 annually. The provision won’t pass constitutional muster. You can’t bribe someone to vote with a financial reward.

The Spokesman-Review has supported Indian tribes that want the same games states offer. But this initiative goes way too far.

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