1999 Governor Gray Davis negotiated new tribal-state compacts with nearly 60 tribes, allowing them to expand current gambling operations, allowing Nevada-style gambling in California, legalizing video slot machines, allowing casino employees to unionize and providing up to $1.1 million annually for non-gaming tribes. Indians would also make quarterly payments based on the number of slot machines they owned to reimburse the state for gambling addiction programs and the impact of casinos on local jurisdictions. The compacts were ratified by the passage of Proposition 1A. Proposition 1A, approved by California voters in 2000, amended the State Constitution to allow Indian tribes to offer slot machines, lottery games, and certain types of card games on Indian land. Under Proposition 1A, a tribe can open a casino that offers these games if (1) the Governor and the tribe reach agreement on a compact, (2) the Legislature approves the compact, and (3) the federal government approves the compact. To date, the Governor, Legislature, and federal government have approved compacts with 72 of the state’s 109 federally recognized tribes. Currently, 58 tribes operate 59 casinos.
The California Legislature passed AB 277 in June 2013. The bill approved gaming compacts between the state and North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot tribe. Proposition 48 would uphold AB 277, which has been contested in court. Under the State Constitution, enacted legislation can generally be placed before voters as a referendum to determine whether it can go into effect. This proposition is a referendum on AB 277. If voters approve Proposition 48, the gaming compacts between the state and the two tribes would go into effect.
The compacts of AB 277/Proposition 48 would allow the North Fork tribe to build a casino with up to 2,000 slot machines on federally entrusted North Fork land in Madera County. In the future, if another Native American casino is built within 60 miles of the North Fork and is allowed to operate more than 2,000 machines, AB 277/Proposition 48 would also allow North Fork to raise their number of machines to the same level as the new casino.
The measure would also bar the Wiyot tribe from conducting gaming on their tribal lands. In addition, specific environmental regulations would be lifted from state and local government agencies that assist in the building of the Northfork casino.
If Proposition 48 is rejected, a new compact must be approved by the state and federal government in order for the tribe to build a new casino. Wiyot would also be allowed to pursue a compact for gaming on its tribal lands if the measure does not pass.
The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is challenging the ballot measure with a lawsuit in the Madera County Superior Court. The tribe is arguing that AB 277 is already a ratified compact, which cannot be challenged by veto referendum. Their arguments are based on compact regulations which require federal approval, which has occured with AB 277. The petitioners are also arguing that a contract between a tribe and a state is not subject to the referendum process.