California Tribes File Lawsuit in Fight for Legislative Amendments

11 Jun 2020

On Tuesday, the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which is a representative body of tribal gaming operators in California, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Sacramento County to ask for more time to collect the required million signatures that would enable them to table their proposals in the November ballot. The suit asserts the before COVID-19 suspensions and stay-at-home orders, tribes had already spent about $7 million in their signature-gathering undertaking. Going back to square one would impose uncalled-for financial strain on the tribes.

The proposal by tribal gaming operators is a constitutional amendment that would permit betting at tribal casinos and state racetracks but doesn’t involve an online betting option, unlike what lawmakers in the state are proposing. Through this suit, the tribes were asking for a 90-day extension given that the 180-day signature drive window as required by law for any ballot initiative had expired due to lockdowns. The tribes don’t want the state to count the time that passed after the Coronavirus lockdowns that began on 19th March.

On the same day, the SCA-6 (Senate Constitutional Amendment 6) was added to the Suspense File by the California State Senate Appropriations Committee. The Suspense File contains bills that have potentially significant economic impacts but lack a feasible analysis. The committee is set to vote on the 18th of June on whether to send SCA-6 to the senate for a floor vote.

The Appropriations hearing on SCA-6 took an uneven turn as it only lasted for 15 minutes as opposed to its last hearing last week at the Governmental Organization Committee.

The tribal gaming operators strongly opposed the SCA-6 legislative efforts for including a provision to legalize the controversial ‘player-banked’ games at the state’s cardrooms. The tribes believe that legalizing player banked games will infringe their monopolies over house-banked card games like baccarat and blackjack. They were instead pursuing their amendments and collecting signatures as part of the process.

SCA-6 will need two-thirds support in both legislative chambers to progress to the next level. With that, the tribes are counting on their legislative allies to ensure it doesn’t proceed before amendments are made. Incase SCA-6 is approved, the tribes have promised to mobilize voters to reject this betting initiative during the November ballot.

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