Goodbye Washington, hello Nevada.
Ken Vogel of the Tacoma News Tribune breaks the story of a proposed gambling compact between the state and the Spokane Tribe, that will massively expand casino gambling in WA state, on and off reservation land. For the first time, a tribe has agreed to share revenue with the government (between 3 and 35 percent of net win), but the state is giving up huge concessions in return, including 24-hour operations, no betting limits, casino credit, and an off-reservation casino.
But the most dramatic and dangerous concession was granting the Spokane Tribe rights to 7,500 slot machines… as many as 4000 at a single location. Under previous compacts, each tribe was limited to directly owning only 675 slot machines; via leasing agreements with other tribes, as many as 1500 could be placed at a single location. Spokane’s 7,500 slots would be a huge increase over the 18,000 slots currently in operation statewide.
I’m not sure what the state was thinking when they negotiated this compact, but they certainly weren’t thinking ahead. Under federal law, the other tribes have a right to go back to the state and demand similar concessions in exchange for revenue sharing… and the lucrative profits from urban, off-reservation casinos with thousands of new slot machines is sure to lure many tribes to do exactly that. Or maybe the state was thinking ahead, and that’s exactly what it wants… a massive expansion of casino gambling in exchange for the tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenues it would bring into state and local coffers?
Whatever the intent, this is a slap in the face of voters who just last year, overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 892 and its flood of slot machines… and if the governor signs this compact, hurling us down a one way road towards unfettered casino gambling, there will be a price to pay at the polls.
Washington state is already suffering from an epidemic of problem gambling, with all the inherent social and financial costs… and the last thing we need is for our state and local governments to become addicted to gambling too. This compact would set a dangerous precedent that would be impossible to overturn. It is bad for families, and it is bad for the smaller, rural tribes who would be shut out of leasing agreements. It is bad for Washington state.
And we need to let Governor Gregoire know that if she signs this compact, it will be bad for her too.