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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 18:33 GMT
Trump strikes California casino deal

Donald Trump: Property tycoon heads west
American casino king Donald Trump says he is preparing to join forces with a Native American tribe in California to expand his gambling empire to the west coast.

The move follows a vote earlier in the week in which Californians approved a measure legalising Las Vegas-style gambling on Native American reservations.

Native American groups expect to make millions through the gambling business
Within hours of the vote, the New York-based tycoon announced he had reached a preliminary agreement to invest $60m in the existing Spotlight 29 Casino near Palm Springs.

On the strength of Mr Trump's other gaming developments in Atlantic City and Indiana, the casino can expect to be transformed into a glitzy showpiece of pink marble and polished metal.

The billionaire property developer and former presidential candidate said the site would be developed with more gambling machines, a hotel, restaurants and other amenities.

Sovereign land

Mr Trump's deal with the casino's current owners, the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, is the fourth big gambling deal with Californian Indians to be made in recent weeks.

Until the vote on Tuesday - one of a number of measures included with the Super Tuesday presidential primaries - the Spotlight 29 Casino and others had been technically illegal under California law.

However, the casino - slogan: "Life's a gamble, we make it fun" - continued running because Indian reservations are considered sovereign land not subject to federal or state laws.

Gambling heartland

Las Vegas operators are making their own deals with California Indians
California is home to around 100 tribes. Together they have spent more than $80m dollars in recent years to promote the bill passed on Tuesday, but most expect to recoup that figure easily.

Analysts say the expansion of the hugely profitable gaming industry in the wake of the vote could make California the second biggest gambling state after Nevada, America's traditional gambling heartland.

The big casino operators in Las Vegas had initially opposed the Indian tribes' efforts, fearing they would lose up to a third of their revenue which comes from Californian gamblers.

But in recent months, they too have begun to strike deals with Indian groups aimed at funnelling some California business back to Nevada through frequent-gambler programmes and other incentives.
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