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THE OWNER of Bay Meadows race track is fighting four measures on the Feb. 5 ballot aimed at giving four Southern California Indian tribes the right to install thousands more slot machines in their casinos in exchange for the tribes giving the state $400 million annually. (Bay Meadows photo by staff photographer MATHEW SUMNER )
SAN MATEO — The owner of Bay Meadows race track has positioned himself at the center of a fight to defeat gaming agreements with four Southern California Indian tribes — pacts that would expand their gambling operations and funnel millions into the state's general fund.

Terry Fancher, owner of Bay Meadows Land Co., which controls both Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park in Inglewood, spent more than $4 million in 2007 on a campaign to sink the tribal compacts, which go before the voters Feb. 5.

Bay Meadows Land Co. hopes that overturning the deals, which allow the tribes to add a total of 17,000 new slot machines, would give the state's race tracks a chance to improve their financial fortunes.

The race tracks could alleviate what they see as a competitive disadvantage with Indian casinos and tracks in other states by obtaining permission to install a type of video gaming device known as Instant Racing at their facilities, or by receiving financial compensation from the tribes. There is little chance that a breakthrough would come in time to save Bay Meadows from being torn down and redeveloped, since construction is set to begin late this year. But Hollywood Park could stand to benefit from any such tilt in the competitive balance.

Bay Meadows is part of a coalition fighting the tribal compacts — Californians Against Unfair Deals: No on 94, 95, 96 and 97 — that includes hotel and casino workers and other tribes whose interests are threatened by the deals.


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Fancher's coalition is badly outgunned by the four tribes: the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

While Californians Against Unfair Deals raised $10.4 million in 2007, the four tribes amassed a war chest of nearly $44.5 million over the same period.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who negotiated the deals and is counting on them to boost the state's beleaguered budget, recently hit the airwaves with ads touting the compacts, which have the support of police and firefighters, labor unions and business interests.

Schwarzenegger claims the compacts will bring the state as much as $400 million a year in additional funds due to a revenue-sharing agreement he worked out with the tribes.

Roger Salazar, spokesman for the Coalition to Protect California's Budget and Economy, a committee organized by the four tribes, said Bay Meadows Land Co. is putting its own interests ahead of the state's.

"What they're basically trying to do is deny the state billions of dollars in much-needed revenue at a time of fiscal emergency, simply because they aren't getting a piece of the pie," Salazar said.

Some leaders in the horseracing industry have criticized Fancher's campaign against the tribes, arguing it will merely antagonize them, making it more difficult to negotiate any future settlement.

Magna Entertainment, which owns Golden Gate Fields in Albany and Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, has not contributed to the campaign against the compacts, while the Thoroughbred Owners of California have come out in support of the deals.

But state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, whose district includes San Mateo, views Fancher's fight against the Southern California tribes as evidence of a commitment to save not just his tracks but California's horseracing industry as a whole.

Yee adamantly opposes the deals, arguing that they do not include enough protections for workers or mitigation for the effects that major gambling operations can have on communities.

"I think it's extremely important that Californians defeat these particular compacts," Yee said. "You can't balance this budget with money tainted with the blood of workers."

Adam Alberti, a spokesman for Bay Meadows Land Co., said the compacts are intended to increase the competitive advantage enjoyed by Indian casinos, which have exclusive rights over the use of slot machines, over race tracks by preventing the introduction of Instant Racing, which tracks in other states have used to increase purse sizes.

"Our strategy has always been to pursue the necessary legislative changes to allow race tracks to compete fairly with other tracks across the nation and other gaming venues across the state," Alberti said.

"It's a competition issue," said Scott MacDonald, a spokesman for Californians Against Unfair Deals, who noted that Indian gaming has expanded dramatically since it was introduced in 1998.

"The size and scope of the compacts being discussed is way beyond what the voters of California approved," MacDonald said.

Staff writer Aaron Kinney can be reached at 650-348-4302 or at akinney@bayareanewsgroup.com.