Tribal sportsbetting initiative headed to California court


In California and an alliance of aboriginal groups is reportedly suing the state in an attempt to gain more time for its effort to bring legalized land-based sportsbetting to local horseracing tracks and tribal casinos.

According to a Tuesday report from the Los Angeles Times newspaper, the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering represents over 25 tribes located throughout ‘The Golden State’ and filed its legal action with the Sacramento County Superior Court yesterday naming California Secretary of State Alex Padilla as the lead defendant.

Concerted campaign:

The Los Angeles Times reported that the tribes had been working for months in an attempt to gain enough support for a plan that was to have placed a referendum question on the upcoming November ballot. This plebiscite purportedly wanted voter permission to amend the western state’s constitution so as to legalize land-based sportsbetting complete with an associated 10% tax rate for horseracing facilities.

Pandemic pause:

The newspaper detailed that this endeavor had managed to collect some 971,373 championing signatures and was hopeful that it would be able to meet the required target of 997,139 by the end of a June 25 deadline. However, this campaign was purportedly scuppered in mid-March when California entered lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Postponement plea:

The Los Angeles Times reported that the lawsuit from the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering is now asking for an extension of at least 90 days so that it may attempt to amass the missing 25,766 signatures and qualify to have its referendum placed on the autumnal ballot.

Coronavirus consequences:

Kenneth Kahn, Chairman for the casino-operating Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, reported told the newspaper that California law gives proponents of a ballot initiative up to 180 days to gather the required number of signatures but that the campaign to legalize sportsbetting had been forced to pause its own efforts as a result of the state’s coronavirus-related lockdown.

Kahn reportedly stated…

“This is about seeking to preserve the people’s democratic right to pursue an initiative during the pandemic. Tribal leaders temporarily suspended signature gathering as a sacrifice to protect everyone’s public health.”

Ardent argument:

The Los Angeles Times reported that the lawsuit contends that enforcing the June 25 deadline would violate the tribes’ First Amendment rights to petition the government for a redress of grievances and additionally present ‘an impossible burden’ that would stop the plaintiffs from ‘exercising their right to propose legislation by initiative as guaranteed by the state constitution.’

Rival request:

The newspaper reported that 22 states have so far legalized some form of sportsbetting in the wake of 2018’s revocation of the previous Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) prohibition. It furthermore explained that a competing pro-sports wagering ballot initiative has been gradually making its way through the legislative chambers of California although the tribes are known to be opposed to this measure because it would simultaneously seek to give local card rooms the ability to keep offering player-banked games such as poker.