Tribal Casinos Sue California Over Sports Betting Legalization

On Tuesday, a coalition of California Native American tribes sued the state looking for more time to qualify a sports betting initiative for the statewide ballot. The tribes argued that the Coronavirus kept them from getting voter signatures.

The lawsuit comes during a time when California Gov. Gavin Newsome ordered ballots by mail to the state’s voters. Right now, state politicians are concerned the Coronavirus will affect the polls for the November election.

Currently, 25 Native American tribes are represented by Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, who filed the new legal claim Tuesday. The goal is to qualify for the 2022 ballot would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks.

However, tribal casinos would need 997,139 petition signatures by July 20 to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Kenneth Kahn, chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said that the due date “presents an impossible burden” for the petitioners.

Tribal Casinos

The state of California suspended SCA 6, which is what prompted the tribal casinos to sue. The suspension of the California sports betting bill will most likely keep it off the November 3 ballot. Their bill proposes on 10 percent tax at casinos and racetracks if it goes into law.

The tribes want sports betting to be on the ballot this November, which will allow their casinos, and the California racetracks to offer sports betting to their patrons. The casinos received 971,373 out of 997,139 signatures to get sports betting on the ballot.

Also, they spent $7 million to receive the signatures before Gov. Newsome put in the stay-at-home order March 19. The casinos need over 25,000 more signatures by June 25 to be on the November ballot. Also, they can get the signatures by July 20 to qualify for the 2022 ballot.

However, the casinos feel that this is unfair. Casinos believe the stay-at-home order affected the number of signatures they could have received over the last few months. Now, they have to scramble to collect the remaining signatures to get the bill on the 2020 or 2022 ballot.

Sen. Dodd Sports Betting Bill

Last week, passed a competing sports betting bill that the tribes are opposed too. The bill would allow casinos and racetracks to allow sports betting. However, the bill would also protect cardrooms to allow more card games at their locations, hurting casinos.

Also, California lawmakers are proposing mobile betting. Tribal casinos believe that if mobile betting goes into law, then it’ll take away revenue to their casinos. Dodd said his bill would generate up to $200 million dollars instantly if passed.

The fight the tribal casinos are putting up could delay sports betting in California. Lawmakers continue to walk a fine line on the current gaming laws in California. Casinos believe Dodd’s sports betting bill would infringe on the gaming laws created in 2000.

Cardrooms would be protected, so tribal casinos could not go after them. Casinos view the new bill as a way for the state to move the revenue streams away from them. Casinos suing the state could give them some hope in giving them more time to look for signatures. The battle isn’t resolving anytime soon, especially if the casinos feel they’re getting the short end of the stick.

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