This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
Deals that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger negotiated with Indian gambling tribes have not produced the huge increases in revenue the governor predicted. Indian gambling will bring $362 million into the state general fund this year, $123 million less than expected. It will bring an estimated $392 million next year, $192 million less than the governor's rosy forecast.
Like other parts of the economy, gambling is feeling the impact of the economic downturn. As The Bee's recent stories show, the signs of distress can be seen everywhere. In Placer County, the Auburn Indian Community stopped work last month on the $1 billion expansion of its Thunder Valley Casino. A casino spokesman told The Bee that customers are not spending as much as they used to. The general manager for the Cache Creek Indian Casino in Yolo County acknowledged a "noticeable drop in spending" by customers there, as well.
No doubt both casinos are feeling the impacts of competition from the newly opened Red Hawk Casino in El Dorado County, but more than competition is at play here. The recession is forcing everyone, including gamblers, to pull back on discretionary spending.
Indian casinos are not the only gambling ventures feeling pinched. California lottery sales have dropped $600 million – almost 17 percent – over the last two fiscal years. That decline is particularly worrisome because the lottery is expected to be a key part of any state budget deal.
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