The lead item overnight on Rough & Tumble is about Gov. Jerry Brown’s vague plans to consolidate regulation of Indian gaming in California. Be wary, here, Californians. The governor’s quirky reputation obscures the fact that he’s a conventional corner-cutting, favor-granting pol most of the time — as he very much displayed in dealing with Indian gaming back in 2008.
This is from what I wrote Sept. 10 of that year:
Shame on Jerry
Brown sandbags badly needed casino rules
Of all the industries in the world, casinos are among the least suited to self-regulation. Dealing with vast amounts of cash, everyone from blackjack dealers to executives faces vast temptation to skim. But what’s also not fully appreciated is how regulations protect consumers. Electronic games can be rigged in brazen ways, and promised mega jackpots can be illusory.
Yet for nearly two years – since a federal court ruled federal oversight was unlawful – California’s Indian casinos have operated without any meaningful scrutiny. This is why the California Gambling Control Commission began drafting its own standards for Indian gaming, which generates a staggering $8 billion a year. These standards would have required Nevada-style monitoring of cash transactions and electronic games.
Last week, however, tribal representatives rejected the rules, setting the stage for a new court battle over whether Indian casinos are subject to governmental regulation. This was no surprise.
What was absolutely shocking, however, was Attorney General Jerry Brown’s decision to also formally oppose the rules because of vague, unspecified concerns.
Brown has had nearly two years in which to raise these concerns while the commission drafted the rules. It is unconscionable for him at the last second to jump in and monkey-wrench the process.
The only logical explanation for Brown’s action is to view it in a political context. He has been preparing for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary race since the day he was elected attorney general in 2006, courting powerful interest groups with dubious favors. Now Brown has done a huge favor for Indian tribes, which have perhaps the deepest pockets of anyone in state politics.
This is contemptible – especially from someone who claims to be unusually idealistic and high-minded. Instead, Brown appears to be just another cynical pol who puts his own interests ahead of the public’s.
So when the details of Jerry’s latest vague foray into casino regulation emerge, don’t be surprised if they’re favorable to casinos but not to the public in general.
Jerry’s got a tax measure he needs to pass this fall, yunno, and getting that done is going to take, uh, help from his friends.