California Tribes Call Out Hypocrisy in Cardrooms’ Suit Over Sports Betting Measure

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California Tribes Call Out Hypocrisy in Cardrooms’ Suit Over Sports Betting Measure

California tribal leaders have responded to a lawsuit filed before the California Supreme Court by two cardroom operators seeking to keep an expanded gaming initiative that would allow sports betting at Indian casinos to go before voters on the November ballot.

Hollywood Park Casino
Hollywood Park Casino
An external shot of the Hollywood Park Casino, a commercially licensed cardroom in Inglewood, Calif. Hollywood Park and Parkwest Casino Cordova filed a petition to the California Supreme Court on Dec. 21 seeking to block a tribal-backed sports betting measure from getting placed on the November general election ballot. (Image: CSG Consultants)

In a 32-page document submitted last Wednesday, tribal gaming supporters criticized the suit filed on Dec. 21 by the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood and Parkwest Casino Cordova near Sacramento as merely a “veiled” political ploy.

Hollywood Park and Parkwest want the state’s top court to keep Secretary of State Shirley Weber from publishing the tribal-backed “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act” on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. They want the measure to undergo a “preelection review” because they say it violates the state constitution’s single-subject provision.

Weber is listed as the defendant in the case. However, the plaintiffs also listed the pro-tribal gaming group Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering and four chairs of California-based tribes as real parties of interest in the case.

Election officials across the state verified last year that supporters of the “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act” received enough valid signatures to be placed on the ballot. Besides legalizing sports betting and allowing retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and racetracks, the measure also would allow tribal casinos to offer roulette and dice table games on their floors.

While the tribal measure has been approved, the potential exists for up to three more sports betting-focused initiatives. That includes one backed by cardroom interests.

Cardrooms Say Tribal Measure Violates California Constitution

Hollywood Park and Parkwest claim the tribal measure breaks the single-subject provision in several ways.

They say that the tribal leaders are using sports betting as a guise “to achieve their longstanding goals” of operating “Las Vegas-style casinos” and also being able to sue cardrooms for alleged misconduct. Regarding the latter, the tribal measure would allow anyone or any entity to file a civil lawsuit against entities violating California’s gaming laws.

Violators could face fines of up to $10,000 per violation

“The Initiative engages in ‘log-rolling’ by forcing voters to accept or reject an all-or-nothing grab bag of disparate provisions,” the cardrooms’ complaint states. “The Initiative ties a popular sports wagering measure to unrelated, controversial measures that the Gaming Tribes have tried and failed to obtain by other means.”

Tribes Call Cardrooms ‘Hypocritical’

The response from tribal leaders said that the cardrooms had two years to file the suit, and they still could have filed the suit now in a lower-division court since the deadline to print the ballot is in early September.

Tribal leaders also refute the cardrooms’ claims pertaining to the single-subject rule. All matters within the “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act” deal with gaming. They also point out that if their measure fails to meet the single-subject rule, then so, too, does the cardroom-backed measure since it would allow those commercially licensed facilities to offer standard casino card games, such as blackjack and baccarat.

Currently, California’s cardrooms offer poker tables and offshoots of blackjack and other casino card games.

Apparently, Petitioners believe the Initiative challenged in this case violates the single-subject rule, while the initiative Petitioners support as an alternative does not. Both cannot be true,” the tribal leaders said. “Petitioners’ challenge to this Initiative while supporting another measure that has the same combination of provisions – albeit tailored to the interests of the Cardrooms – is not only hypocritical, but further demonstrates that this Petition represents a veiled political attempt to gain an advantage for an alternative ballot measure.”

The response also points out that Parkwest’s owner has given $150,000 to a committee formed to oppose the tribal retail sports betting measure.

Other California Sports Betting Initiatives Proposed

The cardroom-backed sports betting plan would allow all gaming entities – including tribal casinos – to offer sportsbooks. Unlike the tribal measure, though, it would allow for mobile wagering apps. It also would let the state’s professional sports teams partner with sports betting operators.

Besides the cardroom-backed measure, which currently has a petition being circulated across the state, two other proposed initiatives have either been approved to circulate a petition or await that approval.

One is being supported by seven national sports betting operators to the tune of $100 million, which is how much DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Bally Bet, WynnBET, Fanatics, and Barstool Sportsbook have put up to promote their plan across California. They want to be able to purchase online sports betting licenses for $100 million each. Their proposal would also let tribal casinos purchase licenses for $10 million, but with their betting apps restricted to using only their casino or tribal name.

Petitions to get that measure on the ballot are currently being circulated as well.

In response to cardrooms’ and sports betting operators’ proposal, a select group of California tribes has put together another proposal that would give tribal casino operators exclusive rights to mobile sports betting in the state. That proposal is currently with the state attorney general’s office but its backers should be cleared to circulate petitions later this month.

To earn a spot on the November ballot, organizers of those measures must secure 997,139 valid signatures from registered voters on their petitions before a state-recommended April 26 deadline. That would give election officials enough time to verify the signatures and determine by June 30 if it qualifies for the ballot.

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