Attorney General Janet Reno says she will stay out of a casino dispute between California Indian tribes and the state's governor.

Tribes petitioned for her help in the $500 million state Indian gambling industry's fight to keep lucrative video slot machines that Gov. Pete Wilson has declared illegal."The federal government is not a party," to the fight, Reno said Wednesday, turning down pleas for intervention by seven representatives of the more than 100 recognized California Indian groups.

After their meeting with Reno, tribal leaders and their lawyers said she appeared to side with them on the important issue of whether tribes can keep the disputed machines running while they are negotiating the machines' long-term use.

Reno was silent on the topic, even when asked a direct question by one tribal leader and noted that the tribes can sue if Wilson does not bargain with them in good faith. But Justice Department officials who spoke on background later said Reno agrees with the state that the machines are illegal and must be turned off.