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January 23, 2023 Casino, Tribal, Legal

Rincon Tribe withdraws from its Tribal compact with California

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This follows two decades of legal issues stemming from the Golden State’s regulatory demands.

The Rincon Tribe of San Diego, California has become the first Native American Nation in the Golden State to opt out of its state-Tribal pact, turning instead to federal supervision. This move by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians ends almost two decades of legal contention regarding the way California assesses regulatory costs.

This event is significant as it may herald the end of the state’s hold on Tribal gambling operations, from which it receives nearly $67m a year – which is paid into a state fund.

Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzeti has said the move away from the state was less about the funding dispute and more about the Tribe moving toward sovereignty.

Mazzetti commented: “We’re the first to go through the full process and help develop the process where the state has agreed to opt-out from regulatory oversight of our gaming operations. Basically, making it simple, the middleman is being taken out.”

The Rincon Tribe started operating bingo operations on its land in the 1970s and entered into a state-Tribal compact with California in 1999. Real problems arose between the two parties in 2004 when the Rincon Tribe opened its casino, Harrah’s Resort Southern California near Valley Center.

It subsequently filed a lawsuit against then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger claiming his negotiations with Tribes were unconstitutional and unfair. In 2011, the lawsuit advanced to the US Supreme Court, which sided with the Tribe and said California had violated Tribal gaming law by demanding extra payments in exchange for it adding more slot machines to its casino.

The Rincon Tribe is not the first Native American Nation to have problems with California. Last summer, five Tribes including the Chicken Ranch Rancheria Band won a suit in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. They also claimed the state had breached the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

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