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California judge voids pact on Indian gambling

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A California judge Thursday voided a gambling agreement that had been set up by Gov. Pete Wilson without legislative approval or the support of state Indian tribes, who argued they would lose much of their revenue because of the compact's restrictions on slot machines.

"The governor has the authority to negotiate but not bind California without prior constitutional or legislative approval," Judge Lloyd Connelly of Sacramento County Superior Court said in his ruling."It's a great victory for native Americans in California and it's a great victory for the Legislature," said state Sen. Richard Polanco, a Los Angeles Democrat and a plaintiff in the case.

Wilson said in a statement that the ruling "will have no practical effect" because currently pending before the Legislature is a bill to ratify the compact. The bill has already passed the Senate and is supposed to be voted on by an Assembly committee on Monday.

"This lawsuit was an effort to preserve the tribes' illegal gaming," the governor said. "They will not succeed." He also said he planned to appeal the ruling.

The dispute centers on the compacts that the 1988 federal law requires tribes and states to negotiate before casinos can operate.

Last March, Wilson signed an agreement with the Pala Band of Mission Indians - a small tribe with no gambling - that greatly restricted gaming.