Opinion

Gregoire’s deals with tribes just keep happening

“Do you want what’s in the box or what’s behind door number three?”

That was the question put to contestants on the classic game show “Let’s Make A Deal.”

Near the end of each show, the host asked those who had already played if they wanted to keep what they had, or risk their cash and merchandise for a chance to choose whatever was behind one of three mystery doors.

While some lucky contestants found they had traded their cash for a new car, more often than not it turned out to be a goat.

Gov. Christine Gregoire played a similar game with the Spokane Tribe over the issue of gambling.

She could have kept the status quo between the tribe and the state.

She could have pressed to bring the Spokane Tribe into compliance with state law, agreeing to give them a similar level of gambling as other tribes.

But Gregoire chose the worst of all options, door number 3 — the largest expansion of gambling in state history.

While the contestants on “Let’s Make a Deal” usually had a great time regardless of the results, Washingtonians are not laughing at Gregoire’s goat of a deal.

The governor and her allies in the Legislature are now trying to claim that it was not such a bad deal after all.

In a June 18 Seattle Post-Intelligencer column, Democratic state Sen. Margarita Prentice wrote:

“At the time, there was widespread, bipartisan agreement that ... the Spokane compact should limit the potential for expanded gambling in our state... ... This is exactly the result the governor achieved.”

But when the compact was proposed, Prentice had a much different view, as reported in The Seattle Times on Dec. 28, 2006:

The proposal has some powerful detractors, such as state Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton. ... She called the proposal “really offensive.

“This is way beyond what the public wants to swallow,” Prentice said. “I can’t imagine how we can possibly approve this.”

“... The high stakes, the no limits, no one else has that, and I can’t understand how they came up with this,” she said.

Sen. Prentice was correct back in 2006. Under the final compact, which I vehemently opposed, the Spokane Tribe was granted more facilities, more tables and higher wagers.

The deal permitted 9,000 more slot machines statewide, the state’s first coin-operated slots, increased wagering limits and gave tribes the ability to operate casinos 24 hours a day.

Gregoire’s approval of the Spokane compact allowed other tribes to expand their casinos as well. Twenty-seven of the state’s 29 tribes signed on to the Spokane compact’s provision.

The results are now clear to anyone who drives along our major interstates:

The Kalispel Tribe recently made a $275 million expansion to its casino, tripling its size to 121,000 square feet.

Gambling machines increased from 1,400 to 2,000; 26 table games went to 50; and six poker tables increased to 15.

The Colville Tribes recently began construction on a 58,000-square-foot casino with 400 to 500 new gambling machines.

The Cowlitz Tribe is seeking to build a $510 million resort casino that will feature 3,000 slot machines, 153 gambling tables and 40 poker tables.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will replace its Point No Point Casino late next year with a new $100 million casino resort.

It will include a new 100,000-square-foot casino with 975 new slot machines, 18 to 20 table games, poker tables and a dance club.

The Puyallup Tribe plans to build a large, Las Vegas-style casino along I-5 in Tacoma. The 150,000-square-foot casino on 50 acres will include 2,000 slot machines and 125 gambling tables. The tribe is already expanding its Fife location.

And after all this, guess what? The Spokane Tribe came back to the state and the governor on July 31 to ask for an even higher machine limit.

The compact Gregoire approved not only rewarded the Spokane Tribe for years of illegal operation, but it led to a tremendous expansion of gambling and went against the will of the voters who overwhelmingly rejected the gambling-expansion initiative (Initiative 892) in 2004.

This is a goat of a deal that Gregoire should have never made.

State Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside) represents Washington’s 15th District.

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