By Aaron Claverie, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 12/28/16 – 11:10 PM PST |

What can Southern California’s casinos expect from a Trump presidency?

That’s the multi-million dollar question for tribes who own and operate such resorts, who are hoping that having a former casino owner in the White House is a good thing for both their people and gaming operations.

“We are at the very beginning of the Trump presidency and look forward to engaging the incoming administration about tribal issues in general,” said tribal Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which owns the Pechanga Resort and Casino near Temecula.

During his long business career, Trump has owned casinos in Atlantic City and Indiana, which have since been sold or shuttered following financial difficulties.

In the early 1990s, he worked to protect his Atlantic City properties from competition by Native American tribes who were trying to open or expand their New England-area casinos.

This effort included shock-jock language during a Don Imus interview that called into question the native lineage of some tribal members and hard-hitting political campaigns that equated new gambling houses with drug use and crime and linked the tribes to the mob.

In the early 2000s, however, the businessman cast off tribal antagonism to partner with the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians to re-brand and rehabilitate the Spotlight 29 casino in Coachella as Trump 29.

That deal — which featured annual payments to Trump for his brand, management advice and design work — eventually soured after a few years and the tribe bought him out for $6 million.

That track record makes it difficult for California’s casino officials to glean insight into his future decision-making.

Tribal Chairman Robert Martin of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians — owners of Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon — said tribes developed a strong and positive relationship with the Obama administration.

“We are hopeful that will continue with the incoming administration as we work to improve education, economic development, infrastructure, and job creation opportunities across all of Indian Country,” he said.

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