A decision by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals forced the California Gambling Control Commission to begin issuing licenses that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has maintained that the state was not required to release. The state currently has an estimated 62,000 slot machines, second only to Nevada.
On October 5 the commission awarded 3,547 licenses to 11 tribes chosen by a drawing. Most of the tribes are in Northern California. The largest number of licenses went to Big Sandy Band Rancheria of Mono Indians, for 1,650 machines. The only Southern California tribe to apply for licenses is the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, which asked for an additional 44 licenses for its Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
The state had argued that the 1999 compacts signed by 61 tribes and under which most gaming tribes still operate set an upward limit of 32,000 slots. Many tribes argued that the number was well over 100,000. Such unclear sections were rampant in the 1999 compacts that were written in a matter of weeks instead of months under former Governor Gray Davis, and which ever since have created problems resulting from uncertain language.
The governor had hoped that the panel would delay the order until his appeal to the full court is heard in February. He is still confident of eventually winning the appeal, according to a spokesman. But the panel didn’t buy his argument that releasing additional machines would cause irreparable harm.
Several tribes that are entitled by their compacts to install up to 2,000 slots, but never reached that number because of the state’s insistence that there were no more licenses to release, plan to begin installing hundreds of slots as soon as possible.