California Governor Condemns Federal Rejection of State-Tribal Gaming Compacts

  • The US Department of the Interior rejected two state-tribal gaming compacts
  • Governor Newsom believes the DOI’s stance puts the future of the tribal communities in danger
  • The tribes and state government thought they rectified issues previously highlighted by the DOI
  • Governor Newsom first signed the compacts in September 2021
REJECTED letter
California Governor Gavin Newsom has questioned the Department of the Interior’s decision to reject two state-tribal gaming compacts. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Surprise at the rejection

California Governor Gavin Newsom has condemned the decision by the federal government to reject a couple of state-tribal gaming compacts. He believes that the decision to deny these Class III gaming compacts is “arbitrary.”

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) ruled against the compacts between the California state government and the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians and the Santa Rosa Rancheria’s Santo Rosia Indian Community. As a result of the DOI’s decision, the governor believes that the tribal communities’ welfare is now in danger.

DOI cited issues with the language of the compacts

It is the second time in about eight months that the DOI has rejected these state-tribal gaming compacts, despite Governor Newsom claiming that they were negotiated carefully and were compliant with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). In announcing the latest compact disapprovals, the DOI cited issues with the language of the compacts, as well as “state overreach.”

Negative impact on tribes

The tribes attempted to meet with the DOI to discuss potential changes to the compacts, as well as work with the state of California to make alterations following the initial rejection. Despite those efforts, Governor Newsom said that the DOI “chose to disregard the interests of the tribes and arbitrarily disapprove the compacts.”

could now struggle to create new jobs in economically disadvantaged areas

The tribes could now struggle to create new jobs in economically disadvantaged areas, as well as find it hard to hold onto current jobs. Middletown Rancheria chairman Jose “Moke” Simon is very disappointed at the DOI’s decision, saying: “While California has taken great steps forward, sadly, the betrayal we feel from Secretary Haaland is something we have come to expect from the federal government.”

He believes that his tribe will face a lot of difficulty going forward.

Santa Rosa Rancheria tribal chairman Leo Sisco said that the latest disapproval means that the tribe does not have the necessary resources to expand its Tachi Palace Casino. The plan was for the expanded property to provide new full-time jobs and be an economic stimulus to the local area. He believes that the effect of the DOI decision “is immeasurable and the financial cost to our tribe will be irreparable.”

Resolving issues

The plan now is for the California government and the tribes to work together to try to deal with the DOI’s decisions and to try to avoid any negative impact stemming from the compact rejection.

Class III gaming covers casino-style gambling, but does not include non-banked card games or bingo.

Governor Newsom had originally signed the state-tribal gaming compacts in September 2021; the DOI first rejected them in November. The federal authorities claimed that the compacts had numerous issues, including violations of IGRA, invalid language, and the state looking to impose control in areas where it cannot do so. Governor Newsom revealed in March that he had signed two updated compacts.