NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
THE HONORABLE RICHARD MILANOVICH
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Mr. Milanovich.
CHAIRMAN MILANOVICH: Madam Chairperson James, members of the Commission. My name is Richard Milanovich, and I do serve as a Chairman for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Our Reservation is located in the Coachella Valley. We are specifically known because we incorporate the city of Palm Springs, California, a nice place to visit even in the summertime. Yesterday I think it was about 119, but it's a dry heat.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: That's what they tell me.
CHAIRMAN MILANOVICH: I am very appreciative of the fact that I was invited to speak today, particularly joining the table with these fine group of individuals, the three chairman.
Today I'd like to present to you a story about a proud nation which has exercised its right as a government to operate and to manage a highly regulated gaming establishment to benefit our Tribe, it's members, and each of the communities which find themselves located on our traditional grounds. Those other communities being Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and portions of Riverside County.
I welcome the opportunity to inform you about the tremendous economic, social benefits that our Tribe has derived from the Spa Casino, a gaming facility located in Palm Springs which the Tribe has developed and managed since April of 1995.
Specifically, the casino is located on Tribal land and is adjacent to the Spa Hotel, a property originally built over 35 years ago by non-tribal interests. The Tribe purchased a leasehold interest in the hotel in August of 1993, two years prior to our opening the Spa Casino, after 30 years of private, non-tribal ownership. Today the Spa Hotel and Casino are wholly-owned and managed by the Tribal employees.
Like other Tribes throughout the country, the Agua Caliente have fought hard to overcome hundreds of years of oppression, broken promises and economic dependence upon Federal Government. Taken together with the decades of willful and detrimental interferences in Tribal self-sufficiency from state and a local jurisdictions, our Tribe has gone from being nearly completely dependent upon the Federal Government for services and resources to one of near total independence.
We have thrived in recent years because of hard work, a willingness to put our limited financial resources at risk, and sound fiscal management. At the same time we understand our responsibilities to the surrounding communities. We have developed land use agreements with our surrounding communities -- pardon me. We have developed land use agreements outlining procedures for proper development on our reservation with Riverside County and each of the three cities that share our reservation. Our Tribal government has also entered into a revenue sharing agreement with the City of Palm Springs to mitigate any increase in public safety costs due to the purported impact because of the presence of our casino.
We are most proud of our ability to provide the local community with high paying, safe employment opportunities. And this is based on an economic study that was done -- commissioned by the Tribe in 1996, which shows that economic impact in Palm Springs for 1996 was $19,515,000, and more than 1,000 new jobs were created. In the Coachella Valley $33,150,000 in related revenues were generated as well as more than 2,100 jobs.
Statewide 1996, total dollar impact was approximately $67,450,000, and the total employment was an additional 3,340 jobs. This is on just one casino. Taking into consideration that there is an additional 30, I believe another additional 38 Tribal government casinos, you can imagine the multiplier effect there.
In addition to the tremendous benefits gaming has helped create for the Tribe and its employees, gaming has also allowed the Agua Caliente to become even more socially responsible members in our non-Indian local community. In 1996, one year after we first opened the Spa Casino, the Tribe contributed over $500,000 to the local government agencies, including public libraries, police departments, and fire protection services, as well as charitable organizations such as the Palm Springs Youth Center, Boys and Girls Club, Mizel Senior Center, Meals on Wheels Program, United Way and over 20 other organizations. In 1998 we have already contributed over $800,000 to the City of Palm Springs and Cathedral City, and over 35 charitable organizations and have a commitment for an additional $200,000 to contribute to other in-need organizations or community programs.B
The Tribal Council understands the need to assist individuals who may have addictions to gambling. To this end, we have contributed for the past three years to the local chapter of Compulsive Gambling, Inc. What we do there is we pay for their rent for their building and other needs. We've also contributed additional monies to their program. B
In addition to providing us with the ability to contribute to such organizations and government agencies, gaming has allowed us to venture into new Tribal economic development.
Requisition of former allotted lands. We have repurchased approximately 600 acres that was once allotted land that had been sold to non-tribal interests. We have bought it back.
Establishment of a new chartered bank, Canyon National Bank, which opened on July 10th, 1998, in Palm Springs. The Tribe owns 45 percent of the outstanding stock.
Purchase of the leasehold interest in what some of you may know as the Canyon Hotel and Golf Course Project, which is on the south end of town. Tribal members -- there's approximately 28 who initially held the leasehold there -- were leasing it, were not paid for -- have not been collecting rent for nine years because the hotel has been shut. We are presently reviewing proposals from interested private developers to build a brand new hotel project on this site.
From a Tribal government point of view, the most important contribution gaming has afforded us has been to our Tribal members themselves. In a social needs survey commissioned in 1994 by the Tribal government, it was determined that over 50 percent of our members lived at or below the poverty level. Twenty-seven percent of the Tribal families are homeless, living with extended families or other available shelter, and 63 percent of our Tribal families are living in structurally deficient buildings. Since the Spa Casino has opened we have been able to provide our members:
One hundred percent health care benefits.
Vision and dental benefits.
Subsidized housing program, home ownership, rental assistance, excessive utility expense, major home repair.
Child care financial assistance so members can return to school or maintain employment.
Tribal 401K Retirement Plan; and most importantly or what we consider very important:
Freedom from the dependency upon the county or state social services system, welfare system in other words. And we are paying back monies that were collected by Tribal members from the state due to disability. We are paying it back.
Without the benefits of gaming on our Reservation, we would have to cease all our social assistance programs, our health insurance, the economic development, and the list goes on and on. Indian people are a proud and self-reliant people, the great majority of whom for years languished on out-of-the-way Reservations unseen to the general public, and therefore, unconcerned by the general public.
As I stated previously, there are members in Palm Springs who live at or below the poverty level. I must relate to you that our other Tribes and their members were unaware of our plight. They too thought that the Indians in Palm Springs were rich. However, this is not the case. It is inaccurately assumed that the Tribal members in Palm Springs have their basic survival needs and Tribal government accruements addressed, as promised by the Federal Government. The fact is, Congress has failed in their charge to uphold the Trust Responsibility to Native Americans, and we have had to move to take care of our own. Government run, highly regulated Indian gaming has been the answer to pulling our Tribe out of a cycle of dependency. Today we stand to take advantage of this right.
Let me conclude by saying that gaming has provided Tribes across the nation a real opportunity to determine our own destiny, and to build a solid economic future for our Tribe and our future.
We have worked long and hard to reach this point, and if gaming operations are restricted or halted, all the progress we have made after centuries of hardship, will be severely jeopardized altogether.
Thank you very much for your time and attention.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Thank you, very much.