With the blessing of his 145-member Assemblies of God congregation in Barstow, California, pastor Charles Mattix III has become a community activist. He has lobbied in the nation's capital, spoken at city council meetings, encouraged residents to sign petitions, helped organize a community forum attended by more than 500 residents, and formed an ad-hoc responsible growth coalition. His cause? Mattix opposes a proposed casino to be operated by the Los Coyotes of the Cahuilla tribe.

Four years ago, California voters approved a constitutional amendment that gave tribes a monopoly on operating casinos in California, as long as they do so on tribal land. Now, Barstow is just one of 28 "off-reservation" casino proposals in the Golden State.

On June 21, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a deal with five tribes that would allow unlimited slot machines—the current limit is 2,000 per tribe—for $1 billion and a share of future revenues. Foes say such an accord, yet to be ratified, combined with approval of more off-reservation casinos, would result in American Indian gambling inundating urban areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco—making gambling a significant feature of California life.

Although the 272-member Los Coyotes already control 25,000 acres in rural mountains near San Diego, they consider the cacti, rocks, sand, and sagebrush on the edge of Barstow the perfect locale for a casino. Barstow, a city of 23,000, is on Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert, roughly midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a spot passed by 19.3 million vehicles annually.

"I fear that the casino will become the plantation and the city of Barstow its slaves," Mattix says. "Families would split, credit card debt would rise, crime would increase, and ...

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