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Gambling Initiative Rolls Craps

Statewide initiatives

Washington state tribes asked voters to think about the plight of Indian reservations as they went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to authorize slot machines at Indian casinos.

That strategy failed, with voters shooting down Initiative 671 and avoiding a possible post-election court battle.

Secretary of State Ralph Munro, heeding the advice of Attorney General Christine Gregoire, contended the initiative required a 60 percent yes vote to pass and would not be certified if it garnered less. The tribes said passage required only a simple majority, and promised to take the state to court over the matter if necessary.

Elsewhere on the ballot, voters approved Initiative 655, which bans the use of bait and hounds when hunting bear, cougar and bobcat. Initiative 670, which sought to intimidate Congress into approving term limits for its members, was defeated.

Proponents of the gaming initiative, backed by 19 of the state’s 27 federally recognized tribes, raised $2.2 million to promote the measure, which they said would have provided a sorely needed financial boost to Indians.

The measure would have allowed 295 electronic gambling devices per tribe, with the potential to expand to 495 after a year. A portion of the gross profits would have been earmarked for local governments and commissions for economic development, as well as a new fund for restoring salmon habitat and watersheds. Some money also have gone to local public safety, emergency and other services, as well as charities.

A similar measure last year, filed by three tribes, was defeated at the polls. It would have limited the state’s role in policing casinos and contained a controversial provision that offered annual payments to voters.

Many of the state’s hunters were up in arms over Initiative 655, which was sponsored by animal-rights activists who believe the longstanding and controversial methods of using bait and hounds to hunt bear and big cats are cruel and unsporting. Sponsors included Washington state chapters of the National Audubon Society, the American Humane Society and the Sierra Club.

The initiative’s passage followed two previous attempts to ban such practices in the state in recent years.

Sportsmens’ groups, worried that the measure is only the beginning of an effort to ban all types of hunting, said approval would cause the population of deadly predators to swell. They cited a number of cougar attacks on people this year as an example.

A similar measure was on the ballot in Idaho, while Oregon voters were asked to reverse a similar ban approved two years ago.

The term-limits initiative was a complicated proposal that sought to limit terms served by U.S. representatives and senators indirectly, by publicly shaming politicians who don’t support the restrictions.

Like similar measures in 12 other states, the most controversial aspect of the initiative was a request for a constitutional convention to address the issue. Such a convention could not be limited to one topic, prompting opponents’ fears that it would lead to a disaster.

The measure also would have sought to embarrass non-supporters by requiring that a notation be placed next to their names on the ballot in the next election saying they “disregarded voter instruction on term limits.”

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.