Calif. Slots Measure Qualifies for Nov. 2 Ballot

A  California initiative that could result in five racetracks getting slot machines has qualified for the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

The Secretary of State's office certified the measure, which proponents call The Fair Share Initiative, for inclusion on the ballot June 2 after verifying that the required 598,105 petition signatures had been met. Sponsors turned in more than 1.1 million signatures.

The inclusion comes amid reports that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and five casino-operating tribes are close to a deal that would bring the state $250 million annually from gambling revenues plus an another $1 billion immediately. In exchange, the 2,000-machine cap on slot machines at each casino reportedly would  be dropped.

The constitutional amendment would most notably force Native American tribes that operate gaming facilities to renegotiate their existing compacts with the state to require them to pay 25% of their gambling revenues to the government. Unless all tribes comply within 90 days, the initiative authorizes five tracks - Los Alamitos, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields - and 11 California card clubs to install 30,000 slot machines. They would pay 33% of revenues earned from the machines to fund more local fire protection, law enforcement and child protective services.

A spokesman for the initiative campaign said he would rather not speculate on the effect Schwarzenegger's negotiations and deal with the tribes, if it comes about, would have on the measure.

"If the governor is negotiating toward that, that's great," Greg Larsen said. "We look forward to seeing that.

"Our research tells us – and 1.2 million signed petitions saying it – that people feel the Indians should be paying 25 percent of the billions of dollars they are making as their fair share," he said. "We're excited about getting this before the voters in November. And we feel strongly they will support it."

A second constitutional amendment --  bankrolled by the Agua Caliente band of Palm Springs, the only tribe in the state with two casinos  -- also qualified for the ballot. It would give tribes 99-year exclusive gaming compacts, including prohibited games such as roulette and craps, and lift the limits on machines and casinos, if they agree to pay the state's corporate income tax, currently 8.8%.

In the event both measures were to pass, the one with the greatest number of affirmative votes would become law.