California Card Rooms Sue Again Over Tribal Sports Betting Ballot Initiative

Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova contend that the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act violates the state constitution, which reads that ballot initiatives can involve only a single subject.

Last Updated: Mar 9, 2022 5:09 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
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Two California card rooms filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in an attempt to keep a sports-betting initiative sponsored by nine tribal casinos off the November ballot. 

Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova contend that the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act violates the state constitution, which reads that ballot initiatives can involve only a single subject. 

In addition to legalizing sports betting at more than 80 Native American casinos in the state, the proposal would also allow for roulette and craps at the tribal gaming facilities. Currently, casinos are only allowed to have slot machines, lottery games, and banked card games. 

“In violation of this clear constitutional command, the California Indian Gaming Tribes have crafted this Initiative, which unites three distinct and disparate subjects,” the lawsuit reads. “The vast majority of the Initiative concerns sports wagering, including its legalization, regulation, and taxation.”

Despite defeat, card rooms fight on 

This is not the first time the card rooms have tried to get the initiative off the ballot. Lawyers for Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova went before the state’s Supreme Court in December to try to get the justices to rule on the matter. The seven justices declined to hear the case two weeks ago. 

Those who support the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act called the lawsuit a “veiled” political ploy, and point to another competing proposal backed by the card rooms. That initiative has not yet gathered the required 997,139 signatures to get on the ballot.

Yet the card rooms claim the tribes will use "hidden provisions" in their measure to try to put the card rooms out of business. Deven Kumar, general manager of Hollywood Park, said he is concerned with what he sees as an attempt by the tribal casinos to increase their power. 

"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,'' Kumar said in a press release. "This is not what the initiative process was designed to do, and certainly not what this initiative is advertised to do."

Possible showdown in November 

While the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act is currently the only sports betting measure on the November ballot, a few others could join them. 

There is a second tribal-led measure, another sponsored by seven online sports betting companies, and the one supported by the card clubs. 

None of those three, however, have produced the required number of signatures to get on the ballot. They all have deadlines between May and July to get the nearly one million signatures and qualify. 

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