California Sports Betting Bill Advances Despite Backlash From Tribes

  • Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted 9-3 in favor of SCA 6
  • Next step will be a vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 9
  • Tribes are opposed to the measure mainly because of proposed card room concessions
  • Amended bill has until June 25 to make it onto the November ballot for a public vote
close-up of California on US map
The Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted in favor of California’s sports betting amendment bill despite resistance from the state’s tribal gaming operators. [Image:]

SCA 6 makes progress

Sports betting legalization in California made another small step of progress in the state legislature on Tuesday, despite resistance from tribal gaming operators. The Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted 9-3 in favor of passage of Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 (SCA 6) following a debate of more than two hours.

SCA 6 would legalize online and retail sports betting through tribal casinos and racetracks

SCA 6 was introduced last week by Senator Bill Dodd, who is also the committee chairperson, with the amendment co-authored by Assemblyman Adam Gray. It will now advance to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is set to have its next hearing on June 9. 

The amendment bill would legalize online and retail sports betting through tribal casinos and racetracks in the state. It would also allow tribes to offer roulette and dice games. California’s card rooms would also be permitted to offer ‘player-banked’ games like Texas hold’em poker and blackjack. 

Tribes voice resistance

The tribal gaming operators in California have been pushing for just retail sports betting to be allowed at their gambling facilities. They have also been extremely hesitant to make any concessions for the card rooms.

The tribes consider card room operations to infringe upon their exclusivity over house-banked games such as blackjack and baccarat. Among those “vehemently opposed” is the California Native Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA).

The state’s 20 gaming tribes had representatives or provided written testimony of their resistance at Tuesday’s hearing. The chairman of the Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians, Daniel Salgado, accused Dodd of lying after claiming that he was working closely with the gaming tribes to find a suitable solution. Senator Steve Glazer also said that the proposed amendment would “erode the economic stability” of these tribes. 

SCA 6 could be amended to take into account the tribes’ objections

Dodd stated that SCA 6 could be amended to take into account the tribes’ objections. He said there would not be a Senate vote on the issue until he entered “good-faith discussions” with the gaming tribes. 

Time is ticking

SCA 6 will need a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to advance to the ballot in November. The public would then also need to vote in favor with a two-thirds majority for it to pass into law.

The summer adjournment date for legislators in California is June 19. SCA 6 has until June 25 to make its way onto the November ballot.

Parties in favor

Parties in favor of the proposed amendment bill included representatives of racetracks, card rooms, betting companies, and professional sports organizations.

With California currently facing a $54bn deficient in its budget, there is a push to find new revenue drivers for the state government. According to a report from consultancy group Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a mature sports betting market that allows mobile wagering could lead to annual tax revenue of more than half a billion dollars. Tribes have questioned the estimated boost, maintaining that any tax revenue from betting would not have a meaningful impact on the state’s large budget deficit.

Senator Andreas Borgeas was among those who voted against SCA 6. He believes the tribes would contest the measure if it got full approval, possibly leading to an extended period of court litigation.

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