Cardrooms Announce California Sports Betting Push Against Tribal Measure

Written By Matthew Waters on March 25, 2022
California sports betting

Some of the state’s biggest cardrooms announced Wednesday their opposition to a tribe-backed initiative that would legalize retail sports betting at California tribal casinos.

Cardrooms want in on legal CA sports betting, but their opposition to the tribal initiative is about more than that. The tribal measure would also give California’s tribes more power to sue the cardrooms for offering certain types of card games, .

That puts “more than 32,000 jobs, $1.6 billion in wages and $5.5 billion in total economic impact at risk,” Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies said in a Wednesday press release.

The tribal initiative is the only one approved for November‘s ballot at this point. There are three other initiatives pushing for both mobile and retail betting that still need more signatures before qualifying for the ballot, including one being pushed by cardrooms.

Main cardrooms against California sports betting initiative

Four cardrooms donated more than $14 million combined to the opposition effort:

  • California Commerce Club: $5,085,001
  • Hawaiian Gardens Casino: $5,085,000
  • Park West Casinos: $2,085,000
  • The Bicycle Hotel & Casino: $2,085,000

None were officially named in the press release, but their home cities are listed as part of the opposition. Multiple other cardroom host cities oppose the initiative, including 74 represented by the California Contract Cities Association.

“The California Contract Cities Association overwhelmingly voted to oppose the qualified tribal gaming initiative as it will not benefit our residents or communities,” said the association’s executive director, Marcel Rodarte. “The proposed initiative also exploits the Private Attorneys General Act, opening the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits that will harm city revenues that fund vital city services such as roads, schools, homelessness services and fire protection.”

Time running out for other initiatives

There are three other initiatives working to gather nearly 1 million signatures by the end of June.

The initiative backed by cardrooms might be dead in the water. That would have opened up online California sports betting licenses for cardrooms and tribal casinos, as well as sports teams and horse tracks. It does not have even 25% of needed signatures though.

The initiative backed by multiple US sports betting operators crossed the 25% threshold in January. National brands including BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel contributed a combined $100 million up front for the initiative.

A second tribal initiative backed by four tribes that includes online betting hit 25% in early March.

Could California sports betting battle confuse voters?

The competing initiatives and what they propose might be confusing for the average voter, especially with some of the campaigns pushing back against others.

Three of the tribes behind the online tribal betting initiative committed $100 million to fighting against the operator-backed initiative. Tribes went on the air this week with an ad fighting the operator-backed measure.

There is also a lawsuit to strike the retail-only initiative from the ballot.

It is not yet clear how Californians will vote on sports betting in November. A recent poll shows sports betting is supported 45% to 33% by decided voters. The other 22%, however, could swing that vote either direction.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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