A consortium of veteran organizations in California is opposing an initiative by tribal gaming operators to introduce sports betting in the state.
In a statement this week, the vets groups say they’re concerned about other parts of the initiative that’s eligible for the November 2022 general election ballot. In particular, they said it would let tribal casinos sue commercially licensed cardrooms in the state.
According to a copy of the tribal-backed initiative on the California Secretary of State’s website, the state’s attorney general can issue closure orders for violations of unlawful gambling. A first violation would result in a 24-hour closure. A second would lead to a 48-hour closure, while any subsequent violation would lead to a 30-day shutdown.
Additionally, the measure states that any individual or entity can refer an illegal gambling case to the attorney general. If the attorney general does not file a suit within 90 days, then the referring party can proceed with a civil case.
Vets Raise Fears About Tribal Measure
The vets groups say tribal nations could use that to sue cardrooms and potentially force them out of business.
They say the cardroom casinos provide more than 32,000 jobs that would be threatened by the tribal measure. That would potentially impact $1.6 billion in worker wages and $5.5 billion in economic impact for the state and municipalities. They use the funding to help pay for vital community services.
The qualified tribal gaming initiative encourages frivolous lawsuits that threaten thousands of well-paying jobs, veteran-owned businesses and the ability of municipalities to fund vital emergency services including police, ambulance and fire,” said Mike Kerr, a commander with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Department of California, in a statement.
The statement added, “Many of our members rely on work in emergency services after their military service to provide for their families and give back to their communities. Disabled American Veterans stands on the side of safer neighborhoods and healthier communities.”
Besides the DAV, other organizations joining forces to oppose the tribal gaming measure include AMVETS, the Association of the United States Army (both Northern and Southern California chapters), the Marine Corps Veterans Association, National Veterans Foundation, Scottish American Military Society, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Delta Veterans Group.
Latest on California Sports Betting Measures
The tribal gaming measure was verified by elections officials last May to have the 997,139 signatures needed from registered voters to be eligible for the 2022 election.
The measure would allow retail sports betting – and retail only, no online – at tribal casinos and the state’s four thoroughbred race tracks. It would also allow tribal casinos to offer roulette and dice games.
The vets’ opposition is the latest development in what will be a multimillion-dollar battle along multiple fronts. Two cardrooms have filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles County court, claiming the measure goes against state law because it does not pertain to just a single topic.
Meanwhile, supporters of cardrooms have launched a petition drive to get their own measure on this year’s ballot. That would allow online and retail sports betting, and give cardrooms, tribal casinos, racetracks, and professional sports teams access to licenses. It also would allow cardrooms to offer additional games at their locations.
Beyond that, a group of national sportsbook operators is working on their own petition to get a mobile sports betting measure on this year’s ballot. Those operators are willing to pay $100 million for licenses, while allowing tribal nations the opportunity with certain restrictions. Tribal nations have announced their opposition to the measure.
Lastly, some of the state’s largest tribal gaming entities have put forward a fourth potential initiative that would give Indian casinos exclusive domain over online sports wagering.
The deadline for the cardroom, national operator, and tribal mobile petitions is looming if proponents want their measures to be considered in this year’s election. The tribal online and the national operator petition drives have surpassed gathering 25% of the signatures they need.
According to the California Secretary of State’s office, the last day for petitioners to submit signatures for review on a measure for the 2022 election is April 26.