Harrah’s SoCal Ends Gaming Compact, but It’s Still a Class III Casino

The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians has become the first California tribe to pull out of its tribal-state gaming compact and opt for federal oversight of its gaming operations.

That’s according to reporting from the San Diego Union-Tribune and confirmed by California Casinos.

Tanya Duggan, the director of communications and government relations for the Rincon Band, told California Casinos the tribe will still offer Class III gaming at its casino, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, despite no longer facing oversight from the California Gambling Control Commission.

“We’re the first to go through the full process and help develop the process where the state has agreed to opt out from regulatory oversight of our gaming operations,” Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzetti told the Union-Tribune. “Basically, making it simple, the middleman is being taken out.”

Normally, a tribe must face oversight from the CGCC in order to offer Class III gaming — the types of casino games you’s see in Las Vegas — at their casinos. If a California tribe instead wants federal oversight from the National Indian Gaming Commission, it can only offer Class II gaming — bingo, non-banked games.

However, the Rincon Band has had serious issues with how California negotiated its gaming compact since 2004, when the tribe sued then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger what what it deemed unconstitutional negotiations.

That lawsuit advanced in 2011 to the US Supreme Court, which sided with the Rincon Band.

Then, in 2013, the tribe and California entered an agreement that allowed Harrah’s SoCal to continue offering Class III gaming under federal, not state, oversight.

READ MORE: No New Casinos in Sonoma County Until 2035 … Maybe

In November, California and the Rincon Band agreed to make their agreement permanent, a spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Union-Tribune. That means the Rincon Band will no longer need to make regulatory cost payments to the state. It will, however, still make its annual $1.3 million payments to the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund meant to help non-gaming tribes.

As of January 2023, there were 66 Class III gaming casinos in California and four Class II gaming casinos. Class II casinos offer slot machines that feel similar to Class III machines. However, they essentially games of bingo disguised as slot machines.

Harrah’s Resort Southern California Details

The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, consisting of about 500 members in north San Diego County, owns Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Valley Center, California.

The casino offers more than 1,500 slot machines and 51 table games on a 59,000-square-foot casino floor, making it one of the larger Indian casinos in California.

It’s located 38 miles north of San Diego.

About the Author
Harrah’s SoCal Ends Gaming Compact, but It’s Still a Class III Casino 1

Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain started as News Editor and Content Manager at California Casinos in 2022. Before that, he spent six years as a sports reporter and then deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register, during which time he won nine statewide journalism awards, including the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalists Award. As deputy sports editor, Matthew oversaw the Register’s recruiting coverage while also innovating the outlet’s high school sports coverage. Matthew graduated from San Diego State and grew up in California, but he’s somehow a Boston Celtics fan. Long story.