CALIFORNIA VOTERS settled the question of casino gaming back in 2000 -- or so it seemed. Proposition 1A authorized the governor to negotiate gambling pacts that would make Nevada-style casinos possible for "federally recognized Indian tribes on Indian lands in California."
The words "on Indian lands" are the key to Prop. 1A. This made it clear that gaming is appropriate only on a tribe's historical lands. Voters endorsed this bargain, approving Prop. 1A with 65 percent of the vote.
But today the spirit of this proposition could be violated by major casinos proposed around the state on lands that are not "Indian lands" -- some of which are more than 100 miles from tribal headquarters.
This is "reservation shopping," in which tribes from rural areas seek federal approval to acquire lands in trust in densely populated urban areas.
The goal: To put casinos where the most potential gamblers are -- even if it disregards the will of California voters.
Richmond voters made it clear in an advisory vote on Nov. 2 how they feel about these things, overwhelmingly rejecting Measure U, which would have put a 4,000-slot casino at Point Molate.
Proponents tout casinos as major economic engines for depressed cities. But the voters of Richmond know the reality is far different. They know such projects threaten to turn the Bay Area into a cluster of Nevada-style mega-casinos that would burden state and local government services well beyond capacity.
I applaud the decision of Richmond's voters. I encourage local leaders across California to oppose these kinds of casinos. And I urge the U.S. Department of the Interior to reject them.
This issue may be heating up in the U.S. Senate, which may soon consider legislation that would restore the Interior Secretary's authority to take land into trust for Indian tribes, a power that was restricted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2009 decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.
Unfortunately, this legislation -- known as the "Carcieri fix" -- would allow reservation shopping to continue. This would be a mistake.
If the Senate takes up this bill, I plan to offer legislation to make clear, once and for all, that reservation shopping is not acceptable in California.
Specifically, it would require that tribes demonstrate substantial direct modern and ancestral connections to any land they seek for casinos.
This legislation would be designed to strengthen existing federal regulations and curb efforts to expand gaming beyond legitimate tribal lands. And it would help restore faith in the gaming-approval process, which has caused great anxiety for local tribes and communities nationwide.
As a former mayor, I know the financial pressures that local governments face, especially in tough times. The temptation to support large casinos can be strong.
But I also know the heavy price that society pays for the siren song of gambling. This price includes addiction and crime, strained public services and increased traffic congestion.
Local communities pay this price long after the construction jobs leave town.
We need to invest in development projects that bring our communities long-term benefits -- without the social costs that come with casinos. It's time to say "enough is enough" to reservation shopping.