Slot-Machine Casino Proposed for Compton

Times Staff Writer

A state assemblyman has proposed that a group of Indians be allowed to open a 4,000-slot machine casino in Compton, even though the federal government has not officially recognized the band.

Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) introduced such legislation four days after receiving a $1,000 donation from the lawyer representing a faction of the Gabrielino/Tongva Native Americans.

Under Dymally’s bills, AB 2272 and AB 2273, apparent descendants of Native Americans who live in the Los Angeles area would gain a state-recognized reservation at the site of the vacant Compton auto mall. One of Dymally’s measures would declare that the state should enter into an agreement with the tribe to permit gambling.


A casino with 4,000 slot machines would be among the largest in the world. Santa Monica attorney Jonathan Stein, who represents people who hope to open the Compton casino and whose office doubles as their headquarters, said the Gabrielinos would pay the state 20% of the casino’s gross gambling revenue.

“The stars seemed aligned for slot machines to come to Los Angeles County,” Stein said.

Stein noted that Sheriff Lee Baca is one of two official proponents of an initiative proposed for the November ballot that could authorize almost 20,000 slot machines at horse racetracks and card rooms in the county. The initiative would require the card rooms and tracks to pay 33% of their revenue to state and local governments, or roughly $1 billion a year.

Dymally did not return phone calls Wednesday. No hearing date has been set for the bills.

Stein dismissed any connection between his $1,000 donation to Dymally, reported to the state Feb. 15, and the bill’s introduction Feb. 19.

“But I hasten to add that Merv Dymally is a great legislator, whether he supports us or doesn’t,” Stein said.

Federal law says that only federally recognized tribes have the right to enter into compacts with states to allow casino gambling, and that those casinos must be on reservation land held in trust by the U.S. government.

The state-recognized reservation authorized by Dymally’s legislation would be next to a Gabrielino archeological site.

“Why Compton?” Stein said. “Two reasons: That is where the jobs are needed the most. No 2, there is an old Tongva village about 300 yards from the Compton auto mall.”

More than 200 bands of Indians nationally are seeking approval from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to establish themselves as tribes, including 54 in California and no fewer than three factions of the Gabrielinos in the Los Angeles area.

The Tongva group never has had a reservation or a treaty with the federal government. Stein said the reason dates to the 19th century, when California’s congressional delegation blocked ratification of treaties with several tribes.

A legislative resolution in 1994 gave the Gabrielinos state recognition. Since then, the band has splintered, and rival factions have sued one another for control.