Poll: California voters favor more gambling

California voters, regardless of their political affiliation or geographic orientation, are in favour of more casino gambling in the state, a new Field Poll revealed, according to sacbee.com.

One of the measures, promoted by a group of racetracks and card rooms, would allow five racetracks and 11 card rooms to operate a total of up to 30,000 slot machines, if even one of the state’s casino tribes refused to contribute 25 percent of its revenues to the state.

The other, sponsored by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, would allow Indian casinos an unlimited number of slots and other casino games in return for sharing part of the take with the state.

If both initiatives win, state law dictates that to the extent they contain conflicting provisions, the initiative getting more votes prevails.

The poll, taken between May 18 and 24, found that 53 percent favoured the tribe-sponsored initiative, while 30 percent were opposed and 17 percent undecided.

The racetrack/card room measure was favored by 57 percent, with 26 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided.

The poll, which has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 5.8 percent, found no difference between Democrats and Republicans on the tribal measure and no difference between Northern and Southern California residents on the track/card room proposal.

“Usually proposition elections appeal to one side or the other,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo. “When it comes to these, it appears there must be gamblers in both parties, and all around the state.”

“Our research all along has shown that California voters believe Indian gaming tribes, who are making billions of dollars per year, should be paying a fair share,” said Greg Larsen, of a group calling itself A Fair Share for California, “and they think 25 percent is a fair share.”

But a spokesman for Californians Against the Deceptive Gambling Proposition said the real issue is about giving slot machines to the tracks and card rooms.

A spokesman for the Agua Caliente initiative, Gene Raper, called the poll “generally insignificant” because it was based on the attorney general’s summaries of the two measures, and not the extensive, and expensive, commercial campaigns to come.

With both sides sporting very deep pockets, some analysts are predicting the spending on campaigns for the two measures could eclipse the record $92 million spent on Proposition 5, a 1998 measure that gave tribes slot machines but later was overturned by the state Supreme Court.

“All bets are off, so to speak,” said poll director DiCamillo. “There is going to be so much money in play, it’s kind of hard to foresee what is going to happen… but a lot of times when there are competing propositions, they destroy each other.”

Analysts said it remains to be seen what kind of impact potential agreements between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and tribes seeking new or renegotiated compacts with the state will have.

The governor has said he is opposed to the Agua Caliente initiative, but has demurred on the track/card room measure. Tribal leaders are hoping successful negotiations will lead Schwarzenegger to actively oppose the track/card room initiative.