The state of California’s attempt to secure more payments from a San Diego County Indian tribe in exchange for more slot machines resulted in a legal defeat for the state, as the Supreme Court has refused to take up California’s appeal of a lower court ruling. The previous ruling stated that it was a violation of federal law to make the tribe pay casino revenues into California's general fund, which gave the Rincon Band of Mission Indians a victory. The tribe first filed a lawsuit back in 2004 when then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger insisted that the tribes pony up more money if they wanted additional slot machines. Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzetti commented the following about the court outcome: “Regrettably, Gov. Schwarzenegger chose to thumb his nose at the federal law and the tribe's interest in reasonable compromise, costing the state and the tribe money and time, money better spent in creating jobs and providing much needed services.”
California has a $7 billion tribal casino industry, so the case could have a majoreffect on future negotiations with tribes and how deals turn out. Many tribes have already indicated that they wanted to reexamine deals that had been reached with Schwarzenegger in light of the new ruling. From the tribe’s perspective, the case only confirmed the claims they have been making from the start: the state was trying to use illegal taxes and violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The lower court wrote the following in its opinion:
“We are mindful that many states, and especially California, are currently writhing in (a) financial maw. However, we are also keenly aware of our nation's too-frequent breach of its trust obligations to Native Americans when some of its politically and economically powerful citizens and states have lusted after what little the Native Americans have possessed."
Earlier this week, Governor Brown was asked about the case’s outcome, but he only replied, “No comment.” As Attorney General, the governor defended the state’s assessment of the situation.