A proposed ballot measure to permit casino-type gambling in California, provided it stays within 10 miles of the Nevada border, was introduced Thursday by a Los Angeles assemblyman who said the California treasury would be the big winner.
Similar plans to legalize slot machines, blackjack, craps, roulette and other casino games of chance have been talked about in the Capitol in the past, but never approved.
Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana), author of the constitutional amendment, said the Legislature would be more sympathetic now because of the $5-billion to $7-billion revenue shortfall facing the state for the next 17 months.
Taxes on California casino operations, he said, could be used to help finance schools, anti-crime, anti-drug and anti-gang programs, affordable housing, and health care.
Bane said the state is letting too much gambling money go to Nevada. "California's economy is in trouble. Californians spend and lose a tremendous amount of money in Nevada hotels and casinos, and we can no longer afford that loss," he said.
The legislation also could provide a new source of revenue and jobs for the state, and help offset Nevada's attempts to lure businesses to move there, said Bane, chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee.
"Look in the parking lot of any Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe casino and you will see car after car with California plates," he said. "Our friends and neighbors cross into Nevada to gamble; then they come home. Unfortunately, their hard-earned dollars almost never make the return trip."
If approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature, the casino-type gambling measure would appear on the November ballot. It does not require the signature of Gov. Pete Wilson to qualify.
Bane said he expects heavy opposition from the state of Nevada and its casinos in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe because a gambling tax provides nearly 40% of that state's annual revenue.
"Nevada residents pay no state income tax," he said, "and Nevada property taxes are among the nation's lowest. My measure will bring jobs and revenue back to our state where they belong."
Bane added that there will have to be follow-up legislation to spell out what kinds of casino-type gambling would be allowed, and how much money the state treasury would collect from such operations.
Casino-style gambling operated in California during the Gold Rush era, but was outlawed in the 1880s.