The Magazine

California Gambling

From the September 15, 2003 issue: Heap big casinos in residential neighborhoods.

Sep 15, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 01 • By DAVID DEVOSS
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Indians may keep mum on the recall itself, but some of their money is riding on Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. During the last election cycle Indian casinos gave the Fresno Democrat nearly $500,000. Last week, his gubernatorial campaign pocketed an additional $2 million courtesy of the Viejas band of Kumeyaay Indians, a tribe with 300 members that controls gambling east of San Diego. The contribution followed by a few days an $800,000 donation from two other tribes. "Cruz Bustamante is our friend," Viejas vice chairman Bobby Barrett explained. "He has sat down with our elders, learned our stories and our values."

Having mastered state politics, California Indians are ready to try their luck inside the Beltway. Last March, the Viejas and three other tribes broke ground on a $43 million Washington hotel development. Tribal leaders say the structure will be a preview of coming attractions. Of course, politicians in the nation's capital may be better negotiators than those in California. But I'm betting the next casino-studded Indian reservation will be located on land once known as Rock Creek Park.

David DeVoss heads the East-West News Service in Los Angeles.