The state's gaming commission granted permission on October 4th, 2009 for more than ten thousand new slot machines for Indian tribe casino facilities that possess fewer than two thousand slot machines like the River Rock Casino in Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.
Under a deal with California in 1999, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians' casino can offer as much as two thousand slot machines but only has about 1,600 slot machines. While the Indian tribe is eligible to ask for more machines, tribe spokesperson Dave Hyams said that it does not plan to seek additional slot machines.
The gaming commission's decision comes in the wake of an order issued on October 1st, 2009 by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to stop a Sacramento federal judge's August 2009 decision forcing the state of California to issue additional 10,549 gaming licenses. Several Indian tribes successfully argued that they are entitled to offer additional slot machines under gaming compact made in 1999 with former California Governor Gray Davis.
Those gaming compacts, signed by 61 Indian tribes, permitted each tribe up to two thousand slot machines. But it also imposed a statewide cap of 32,151 slot machines, based on the study that few Indian tribes had the market support for additional machines.
In August 2009, US District Court Judge Frank Damrell decided that Indian tribes operating under the 1999 gaming compacts can add slot machines without the need of negotiating new gaming compacts.
Damrell said that state slots cap should have been placed at 42,700 machines, stating that the 32,151 cap did not correctly reflect the number of slot machines that could have been approved under the 1999 gaming compacts.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has pressured the Indian tribes to give more of their gaming revenues to the state in exchange for the extra slot machine licenses. But the August 2009 decision of Judge Damrell sided with the Indian tribes and the federal appeals court rejected the state's request for a stay pending its appeal on Damrell's decision.
But the spokesperson for the River Rock and others stated that the condition of the economy means that the tribes will only seek a portion of the available slots licenses. Hyams said that to obtain a gaming license for additional slot machines, Indian tribes are required to make them available to players within a year.
The River Rock casino, the only American Indian tribe casino in Sonoma County, reported its 2nd quarter revenue fell 7.4% as the gaming industry continues to feel the effects of the financial crisis. River Rock posted $31.1 million dollars in sales for the quarter ending June 30th, $2.5 million dollars below the same period in 2008.
It made quarterly earnings of $3.1 million dollars after giving $3.3 million dollars to the 988-members of the tribe. The plans of the tribe for a $600 million dollars gaming expansion, including a new casino facility, 255-room hotel, spa, restaurants, shops and gardens has also been postponed for the meantime because of the economic recession.