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San Diego tribe becomes first in state to break with California gaming oversight

Harrah's Resort Southern California in Valley Center is shown on Sept. 3, 2020. A former executive is suing Harrah's over the casino's reopening.
Zoë Meyers
Harrah's Resort Southern California in Valley Center is shown on Sept. 3, 2020.

For the first time, a California tribe will break with state gaming oversight and instead work with the federal government to regulate its operations.

The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, based out of northern San Diego County, came to the decision after more than two years of legal battles over how the state uses money collected from tribes for oversight.

The state had repeatedly refused to answer questions about how this money was used, and a later audit highlighted a general mismanagement in how the state regulates tribal gaming.


Bo Mazzetti, chairman of the tribe, says that the move is a step toward stronger tribal sovereignty since they will now communicate with the federal goverment directly on a nation-to-nation basis — rather than through the state of California.

"The intent was (always) for tribes to run their gaming operations," Mazzetti said.

"What this does is basically take the state out of it, and allows the tribal gaming commission and the tribe working with the federal government."

KPBS spoke with Lauren J. Mapp, who covered the story for The San Diego Union Tribune, as well as Chairman Bo Mazzetti about the decision.

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