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Lungren Praises U.S. Pledge to Crack Down on Tribal Casinos : Gambling: Court ruling targets slot machines. But attorney general says another decision hurts state oversight of card clubs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren said Wednesday that he applauds reports of a possible federal crackdown on slot machine operations at Native American casinos in California, but said the state has suffered a serious setback on another gambling front--its efforts to monitor card clubs.

A decision this week by a Southern California Superior Court limiting the time for the state to investigate new card club applicants spells the end of any meaningful oversight of the growing industry, he said.

Hamstrung in his department’s ability to conduct thorough background checks, Lungren said, “Fingers in the dam no longer hold back the floods. It has now burst. The floodwaters which will bring criminal-controlled gambling are running rapidly toward California.” He said he plans to appeal the decision made by a Superior Court in Palm Springs.

But Lungren said he was “very, very pleased” to hear that the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco has pledged to move against operators running the about 8,300 slot machines at Indian-owned casinos in the state.

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For some time, California has declared the machines to be illegal, a position that Lungren believes was upheld in a ruling last week by the U.S. 9th Court of Appeals.

Both sides in the long-running dispute over the legality of slot-machine gambling on Indian lands claimed victory in the federal appellate court’s decision. But among those agreeing with Lungren appeared to be U.S. Atty. Michael Yamaguchi in San Francisco.

News reports in Northern California quoted Yamaguchi as saying, “We’re going to act [against slot machines]. It’s just a matter of how soon.” He said options included a demand that tribes voluntarily halt slot machine operations or face daily fines until they do.

Lungren said state officials would cooperate with federal authorities who take action against the devices, but he added: “I’m not going to stand here and say that within nine months or 12 months, 8,000 machines are going to be removed out of Indian lands in the state of California.”

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There were no reports that authorities would immediately attempt forcible removal of slot machines from the reservation casinos.


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