One of two measures for November

California's online sports betting ballot initiative adds new opponents, faces signatures' raw totals deadline

Julian Canete, President of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, against the online sports betting initiative.
Reading time 3:27 min

On Thursday, California's statewide business leaders and small business advocates voiced "strong opposition" to a ballot initiative that would legalize online and mobile sports gambling in California, backed and funded by major online gambling operators DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, Bally’s Interactive, WynnBET, among others. It has recently gathered enough signatures to become the second sports betting legalization proposal in November's elections, and they have until today to submit their raw totals to Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

Opponents joined a broader coalition against that proposal, and contend the Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support measure, which the opposing groups call the "Corporate Online Gambling Proposition", is a "direct attack on California’s local, brick-and-mortar tribal casinos that would jeopardize California jobs and economic progress. At the same time, the measure would send the vast majority of sports wagering profits out of state without creating any jobs or making any real investments in California," the coalition said in a statement.

Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support said it collected about 1.6 million signatures for the measure, more than the roughly 1.1 million signatures required to authorize a ballot measure in the general election. Counties must now verify the number of signatures, and the California Secretary of State has until June 30 to formally qualify the measure.

The initiative would authorize a gaming tribe, an online sports betting platform with an operating agreement with a gaming tribe, or a qualified gaming company with a market access agreement with a gaming tribe to operate online sports betting for individuals 21 years of age or older in the state but outside of Indian lands. Qualified gaming companies would be required to be licensed to offer online sports betting in at least 10 states or territories or licensed to offer online sports betting in at least five states or territories and operate at least 12 casinos. These requirements have raised concerns that they could effectively block smaller gaming companies and startups from operating in the state. 

“As Native American people, we are proud of the fact that tribal casinos have proven to be powerful economic engines in tribal and non-tribal communities alike,” said Tracy Stanhoff, President of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California. “The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition is a direct threat to tribal casinos and the thousands of small businesses and workforce that depend on them.”

Julian Canete, President of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce said, “This reckless measure would turn virtually every cell phone, tablet, laptop and video game console in California into a gambling device—exposing our kids and other vulnerable communities to the highly addictive nature of online gambling. All at the same time, it would jeopardize good-paying jobs and revenues for our communities and economy.”

“The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition was written for the sole benefit of out-of-state gambling corporations,” said Pat Fong Kushida, President & CEO of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce. “This measure would give online gambling corporations near total control over the sports wagering market, effectively hijacking any local economic benefits for our small businesses, while sending 90% of profits from sports gambling out-of-state and even out of country.”

These business leaders join a broad coalition of California Indian tribes, civil rights, public safety, faith leaders and advocates for the homeless that strongly oppose the online sports betting initiative. The business organizations represent over 1,500,000 California business owners, and they include the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California, California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Black Chamber of Commerce, among several others.

While city leaders in California have supported this ballot measure, including mayors from Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento, the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, which is made up of several state tribes, pointed to an April 19 poll that shows 53% of Californians oppose the measure compared to 36% in favor.

David Binder Research poll conducted from March 28 to April 4 showed about 59% of Californians support legalizing sports betting to tackle homelessnesscompared to 28% who oppose it. California's sports betting legalization, called to be the next big market in the US, would be supported by 45% of voterswhile more than 1 in 5 claims to be undecided, according to a poll released late Febraury by the University of California's Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times.  

Last month, a group of California local elected officials joined California cities and officials throughout the state in opposition to the only qualified gaming initiative so far, called Tribal Sports Wagering Act, which would allow California Indian tribes to offer in-person sports wagering at tribal casinos. On the same day, the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming announced that a broad coalition of California Indian tribes, civil rights organizations, homelessness advocates, faith leaders, public safety groups, and business advocates has come out in support of the Tribal Sports Wagering Act, and in strong opposition to the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.

Two California cardrooms —Hollywood Park Casino and Parkwest Casino Cordova— filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court in March as their second legal attempt to prevent the initiative from going to the voters, after the state's Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

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