California Card Rooms Opposing Tribal Betting Initiative

  • Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova and Hollywood Park Casino filed a lawsuit to try to stop the initiative
  • The initiative looks for tribes to exclusively offer legal sports betting, roulette, and dice games
  • The card rooms claim the initiative violates California’s constitution
  • An attempt by the card rooms to get an emergency junction failed last month
  • Previous efforts to legalize sports betting in California have been unsuccessful
Lawyer holding a document titled "LAWSUIT"
Two card rooms in California have filed a lawsuit to try to block a tribal gambling expansion initiative. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Fighting against the measure

Two California card rooms are legally challenging a tribal sports betting initiative. Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova and Hollywood Park Casino filed a lawsuit on Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court in an attempt to prevent the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act from appearing on November’s ballot.

Tribal casinos would gain the exclusive right to offer dice games and roulette

This tribal initiative aims for a public vote on sports betting legalization if it gets enough signatures. Tribal casinos would gain the exclusive right to offer dice games and roulette if the measure is successful. They would also be able to file lawsuits against card room competitors in the state if the measure gets approval.

In the lawsuit, the card rooms contest that this measure violates the state’s constitutional rule that a ballot initiative can only involve one subject. Hollywood Park Casino is also claiming that the tribes will utilize “hidden provisions” as part of the initiative in an attempt to undermine card rooms.

Attempting to protect competition

Hollywood Park Casino general manager Deven Kumar claims that the ballot initiative would “surreptitiously destroy competition with California’s cardrooms by granting more rights to tribal casinos, including the right to file a stream of lawsuits against cardrooms.”

Nine California tribes support the initiative, including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians. As part of the state constitution, federally recognized tribes are able to enter an agreement with the state governor to offer various types of gambling on tribal land. However, these facilities cannot offer the likes of dice games and roulette, only lottery games, banked card games, and slot machines.

California has about 85 card rooms, which pay almost $500m combined in local taxes every year.

Hollywood Park believes that the initiative would create a provision allowing tribal casinos to offer the excluded types of games and nobody else. The two card rooms had already tried to get an emergency petition to stop the tribal initiative from getting on the ballot, but the California Supreme Court rejected the request last month.

A potentially lucrative market

Other attempts to legalize sports betting in California have been unsuccessful to date. As California is the largest US state in terms of population, it would certainly be a lucrative market for operators. A couple of other proposals are currently looking to become part of the November ballot.

Currently, all of the states that border California have legal sports betting. A public vote would be needed to legalize the activity in California as a constitutional amendment would be necessary.

The Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies recently conducted a survey in California, which showed that about 45% of the people surveyed support sports betting legalization. More than one in five people are unsure what they think about the matter.