They seek to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot

California tribes submit proposal to legalize sports betting in the state

“Californians should have the choice to participate in sports wagering at highly regulated, safe and experienced gaming locations,” said Mark Macarro, chairman of Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.
2019-11-15
Reading time 2:11 min
The initiative is backed by 18 tribes led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, and was filed Wednesday with the state attorney general’s office seeking a title and summary to begin circulating petitions to qualify the measure. Then it would have to collect the signatures of 997,139 registered voters. It would impose a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue, and allow craps and roulette at tribal casinos.

Sports betting could be legal in California under an initiative proposed Wednesday by a coalition of Native American tribes. The filing of papers for an initiative supported by 18 tribes led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians comes just four months after state Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced a bill that would also put a sports betting measure on the 2020 ballot.

“Californians should have the choice to participate in sports wagering at highly regulated, safe and experienced gaming locations,” Mark Macarro, chairman of Pechanga, said in a statement, reported by Los Angeles Times. “We are very proud to see tribes from across California come together for this effort, which represents an incremental but important step toward giving Californians the freedom to participate in this new activity in a responsible manner.”

Attorneys for the proponents filed papers Wednesday with the state attorney general’s office seeking a title and summary for the initiative that would allow them to begin circulating petitions to qualify the measure.

The constitutional amendment proposed by the tribes for the November 2020 ballot would allow wagering on professional, college and some amateur sports, though not high school sports, at tribal gaming casinos and licensed racetracks. Gray has estimated that illegal sports wagering in the United States amounts to about $150 billion a year.

Other card clubs have sought to offer sports betting and are likely to object to the narrow powers in the proposed initiative, which would not allow sports betting at card clubs. “We would be disappointed at any initiative that allowed sports betting but that didn’t include card clubs,” said Kyle Kirkland, president of the California Gaming Assn. He said he had not seen the initiative proposed Wednesday and would have to consult with his members before taking a final position.

The initiative would impose a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue derived from sports wagering for public safety, mental health programs, education and regulatory costs. The measure would also expand the tribal gaming compact powers to allow craps and roulette at tribal casinos.

Supporters would have to collect the signatures of 997,139 registered voters to qualify the initiative for the ballot. The supporters of the initiative include several tribes that operate casinos in California including the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

“A strong, well-regulated gaming industry is of utmost importance to California’s tribal governments and the public,” said Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Assn. “This initiative allows sports wagering in a responsible manner and provides for transparency and strict regulation.”

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