09/24/2004 12:00AM

Slots trail in vote, poll finds

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A ballot initiative that could lead to the installation of slot machines at five California racetracks has the support of only 33 percent of state voters, according to a poll published Friday in the Los Angeles Times.

The poll found 46 percent of voters were opposed to Proposition 68, which is to be on the Nov. 2 ballot, with 21 percent undecided.

A related gambling measure supported by Native American tribes is also failing. Proposition 70 would allow tribes to expand the number of slot machines they operate in exchange for paying the California corporate tax rate of 8.8 percent.

According to the poll, Proposition 70 had the support of only 28 percent of the voters, with 48 percent in opposition, and 24 percent undecided.

The poll gathered the opinions of 1,320 registered voters and was conducted throughout the state from Sept. 17-21. It had a plus/minus sampling error of 3 percentage points.

The primary focus of Proposition 68 is to make Native American tribes that operate casinos in the state increase their payments to the state from slot winnings from the current nominal levels to 25 percent.

If Proposition 68 is approved, the tribes would have to agree to several other conditions, including increased oversight from a gaming control board and an annual audit.

If Proposition 68 is approved, the tribes would have 90 days to agree to those terms, or five racetracks - Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita - and 11 card clubs would be allowed to install up to 30,000 slot machines.

If both measures gain a majority vote and pass, the one with the highest number of yes votes would become law.

Last fall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected on a platform that included forcing the tribes to pay more revenue to the state, which he described as "their fair share."

In recent months, however, Schwarzenegger has opposed both Propositions 68 and 70, and has been negotiating with Native American tribes to sign compacts to expand tribal gambling in exchange for higher payments to the state.