California Cardrooms Refile Suit to Block Tribal Sports Betting Measure

Home » California Cardrooms Refile Suit to Block Tribal Sports Betting Measure

Posted on: March 8, 2022, 09:25h. 

Last updated on: March 9, 2022, 01:12h.

Two California cardroom casinos are heading back to the courts in their effort to block a tribal-backed sports betting initiative from going before voters in the fall.

Hollywood Park Casino
The exterior of the Hollywood Park Casino, a cardroom located in Inglewood, Calif. Last week, that cardroom casino and another one filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles County court seeking to block a tribal-backed sports betting measure from being placed on this year’s general election ballot. (Image: WilsonMeany.com)

The Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova released a statement on Monday announcing they filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lawsuit names Secretary of State Shirley Weber as the defendant. Four California tribal leaders and the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, a political committee set up by tribal gaming interests to promote their initiative, are listed as respondents.

The parties are the same from a lawsuit the cardrooms filed in late December with the California Supreme Court. The state’s top court dismissed that case less than two weeks ago.

Cardrooms Claim Measure is Too Broad

Not only are the parties the same, but the cardrooms’ arguments are identical as well. They claim the tribal-backed measure, which has been approved for the November ballot, violates California law. The law requires ballot measures to stick to a single topic.

While most of the attention given to the measure has been centered around the sports betting provision – the initiative would allow retail sportsbooks at both tribal casinos and state-licensed racetracks – it also includes language that would allow roulette and dice-based table games.

Not only does that violate the single-topic provision, but the cardrooms say the tribes are seeking to do away with the state’s constitutional ban on “Las Vegas-style casinos.”

However, a bigger worry for the cardrooms is a provision called “Enforcement Against Unlawful Gambling Activities” that the cardrooms believe is targeted for them.

What this sports-wagering ballot initiative really does is to surreptitiously destroy competition with California’s cardrooms by granting more rights to Tribal casinos, including the right to file a stream of lawsuits against card rooms,” said Hollywood Park General Manager Deven Kumar in a statement. “This is not what the initiative process was designed to do, and certainly not what this initiative is advertised to do.”

If passed, the cardrooms say the lawsuits could threaten the 85 establishments, the largest of which are in major urban locations. Those cardrooms employ 18,000 workers and generate $500 billion in taxes for their local communities.

Besides seeking a judge to block Weber from putting the measure on the ballot, the cardroom casinos are seeking attorney fees and other costs.

Tribal Sports Betting Measure Gets NAACP Support

Meanwhile, as cardrooms seek to block the tribal-led effort, the state’s indigenous nations got some support from a leading civil rights organization.

Last week, Rick Callender, the president of the California/Hawaii NAACP, released a statement indicating the chapter stood with tribal leaders and threw its support behind the retail sportsbook proposal.

For far too long have the tribes been excluded from the table of creating economic self-sufficiency,” he said in a statement posted Friday. “The California – Hawaii NAACP has stood with California Indian tribes in their fight to establish and protect gaming on their own tribal lands.”

At the same time the NAACP Chapter announced its support for the tribal retail measure, Callendar said the organization also had “grave concerns” about how “a massive expansion of online and mobile gambling” would impact problem gambling in the state, especially among minorities.

“Additionally, not one penny raised from this effort has been dedicated towards direct reparations, or educational support, for African Americans and other people of color—which is why we unanimously voted to oppose the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition,” he added in the statement.

The “corporate” measure Callender alludes to is likely the one being proposed by seven national sports betting operators. Those companies have pledged to spend $100 million to get voters to approve their initiative, which would allow online sports betting apps statewide.

Tax revenue from mobile wagering would be used to fund mental health and homeless support services.

Both it and the cardroom measure are still gathering signatures to get on this November’s ballot. So, too, is a second tribal measure that would limit online betting to tribal entities.

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