Members of various Indian gaming tribes across California often remind reporters not to lump all tribes into any one opinion or sentiment. Tribes are sovereign nations, goes the often repeated advice, and do not speak with one voice.
Today, new proof of how true that is: a group of powerful gaming tribes has sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger that basically calls out some of their fellow tribes for operating unauthorized gaming machines.
The letter from the California Tribal Business Alliance says that the organization is aware of "several thousand" machines in operation around the state that may not be what they claim to be. The machines in question are classified as electronic bingo games (known as Class II gaming), but may operate very much like traditional slot machines (known as Class III gaming).
Class III machines can only be used if they are spelled out in a tribe's formal compact with the state. Class II machines do not require California approval.
The alliance letter to Schwarzenegger says that tribes operating questionable Class II machines should essentially prove the machines are what they say-- otherwise, they should be considered Class III.
The issue is important because several powerful tribes have already maxxed out on slot machines... but also have not struck new gaming deals with the governor. And some of those same tribes have turned to Class II machines to help improve their bottom line, regardless of accusations that the new machines are really slot machines.
That, as you might imagine, appears to have angered tribes that have struck new gaming deals... deals that often have included more concessions on issues like working conditions, and mitigation of gaming's impact on local communities.