New opposition campaign already has $7 million
Legal Sports Report

California Sports Betting Initiative In Jeopardy Because Of Coronavirus Lockdown

California sports betting

Native American tribes recently stopped collecting signatures on their California sports betting initiative because of the coronavirus shutdown.

Unable to meet the April 21 deadline to submit signatures for verification by random sample, the initiative will need an extension from the legislature or governor to make the ballot.

Just three weeks ago, the CA sports betting initiative seemed well on its way to getting the signatures needed to make the ballot.

“Because the health and well being of Californians is foremost, we paused paid signature-gathering efforts for the time being,” said Jacob Mejia, spokesman for the initiative effort. “Tribal leadership remains committed to bringing this proposal to voters in November and are monitoring developments closely and assessing all options.”

What it would take now

To make the ballot a constitutional amendment, the sports betting initiative needs to reach 997,139 valid signatures.

The tribes were aiming to gather at least 1.5 million signatures to ensure that enough were valid.

“We are just shy of 1 million signatures and would have reached our goal well ahead of the deadline before the unprecedented orders around COVID-19,” Mejia said.

Opposition gears up for CA sports betting initiative

The tribal California sports betting effort might be in jeopardy, but that isn’t stopping the state’s cardrooms from beginning a well-funded opposition.

A state filing for contributions to the No on the Gambling Power Grab campaign describes the initiative’s objectors as “a committee of local leaders, licensed card clubs and their employees, law enforcement and local businesses.”

The no campaign is starting strong with $7 million, including:

  • $2,250,000 from Knighted Ventures LLC, a provider of proposition player services
  • $2,250,000 from Parkwest Casinos
  • $500,000 from Hawaiian Gardens Casino
  • $500,000 from Hollywood Park Casino
  • $500,000 from Bicycle Casino
  • $500,000 from PT Gaming LLC, another provider of proposition player services
  • $500,000 from Elevation Entertainment Group

“Seven million is just the down payment,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for the “no” campaign. “There’s a lot more where that came from. Their business is at stake, their employees are at stake and a lot of tax money is at stake.”

Maviglio said the “no” campaign would begin to build a coalition, hire staff, conduct polling and think about advertising despite the uncertainty of the ballot initiative.

“There’s no stake through the heart yet,” Maviglio said. “The tribes are trying a number of things to make the card clubs not be able to exist, destroy local city budgets and cause thousands of people to permanently lose their jobs. We’re going to have an aggressive campaign to make sure it doesn’t pass and that means putting in money now.”

Path forward for California sports betting

Getting the required signatures by April 21 seems like a remote possibility. The state is under a shelter-in-place order that Gov. Gavin Newsom says could last up to eight weeks.

Companies that collect signatures have shut down. People don’t want to get close to signature gathers in the name of social distancing.

An extension on the signature deadline is the only possibility for the initiative to make the ballot. That would take urgent legislation or an executive order from the governor.

Changing the number of signatures needed to make the ballot requires a constitutional amendment.

Newsom said companies that are paid to gather signatures for ballot initiatives have asked him to extend the deadlines for submitting signatures. He was noncommittal and said that the question is one of many issues he’s processing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matthew Kredell
- Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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