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Backers of Indian Casino Measure Double War Chest

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Proponents of Proposition 1A have doubled the size of their campaign war chest over the past month and have now raised about $21 million, new campaign finance reports show.

That’s far less than the $68.6 million raised in 1998 by proponents of a similar effort, Proposition 5, which ultimately was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

But unlike that campaign, little organized opposition has surfaced to the current measure, which would change the state Constitution to allow California tribes exclusive rights to operate Nevada-style slot machines in reservation casinos.

Opponents of Proposition 1A have raised only about $44,000, compared to the $25.4 million--mostly from Nevada gambling interests--that was spent to oppose Proposition 5.

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According to campaign reports through Saturday, the largest contributions and loans to the Yes on 1A campaign have come from several Indian tribes that operate thriving casinos without state or federal blessing. They include $7.7 million from the San Manuel near San Bernardino, $3.5 million from Viejas east of San Diego, $2 million each from the Morongo Indians near Cabazon and Rumsey Rancheria near Sacramento, and $1 million from Pechanga near Temecula.

In 1998, the San Manuel tribe alone spent $25.5 million campaigning for Proposition 5.

The main benefactor of the No on 1A campaign is Phyllis S. Baugh, a Newport Beach woman who contributed $35,000 because she had once visited an Indian casino “and didn’t like it very much,” said Leo McElroy, who is heading the effort to defeat the measure.

Passage of Proposition 1A would set into force compacts already negotiated between the state and 58 individual tribes allowing up to 2,000 slot machines per tribe. The compacts also allow poker, blackjack and other house-banked card games on Indian reservations.

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Under Proposition 5, tribes would have been allowed an unlimited number of video slot machines which, unlike the Nevada devices, did not have pull arms and which pay jackpots with redeemable paper receipts rather than coins.


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