Press conference

California: City Mayors and officials claim tribal sports betting ballot initiative could have $5.5B negative economic impact

Los Angeles elected officials during Thursday's press conference.
Reading time 3:14 min

Los Angeles elected officials held a press conference on Thursday to voice their arguments against California's tribal sports betting ballot initiative, which already qualified for November. 

The initiative, called Tribal Sports Wagering Act, would allow sports wagering only at tribal casinos and at four California racetracks — Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, Del Mar in San Diego and Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

Oralia Rebollo, Mayor, City of Commerce; Emma Sharif, Mayor, City of Compton; Jesse Alvarado, Council Member, City of Hawaiian Gardens; Alejandra Cortez, Council Member, City of Bell Gardens; Marcel Rodarte, Executive Director, California Contract Cities Association; Juan Garza, California Cities for Self-Reliance Joint Powers Authority; Brenda Villa, Four-Time Olympian and Gold Medalist in Water Polo; and Shavon Moore-Cage, an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Laborer called on Los Angeles voters to reject the measure in the November election – citing that the Los Angeles region stands to lose at least $71.1 million in direct general fund tax revenue if the eligible tribal gaming initiative becomes law.

According to the local elected officials and community leaders, the measure’s passage would significantly limit local government’s ability to fund public health, homelessness services, senior programs, after-school programs, and a myriad of vital public services.

The initiative proposes to amend the State Constitution to "guarantee tribal casinos a near-monopoly on all gaming in California – adding exclusivity over roulette, craps and sports wagering to their current monopoly on slot machines — while weaponizing the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) so it can be used against tribal casino operators’ legally-operating competition," the coalition argues in a statement. "Specifically, this change in the State Constitution allows tribal casinos to hire private trial lawyers and replace the role of the Attorney General to sue their non-tribal competitors. As a result, the measure puts more than 32,000 jobs, $1.6 billion in wages and $5.5 billion in total economic impact at risk. Cities rely on this revenue for resident services such as public safety, housing and homeless programs." 

Left to right: Brenda Villa; Jesse Alvarado; Sharvon Moore-Cage; Emma Sharif; Alejandra Cortez;
and Oralia Rebollo.

Oralia Rebollo, Mayor for the City of Commerce, said: “Cities across California oppose the qualified tribal gaming initiative because it is the only sports wagering measure that will cause direct harm to our ability to fund the services and opportunities our residents rely on – from parks and recreation to police and fire. California cities that depend on the revenues generated through legal gaming at cardrooms would be devastated by the impact cardroom closures would have on municipal budgets and the vital services they fund.”

Emma Sharif, Mayor for the City of Compton, stated: "Los Angeles County would stand to lose more than 9,100 good paying jobs and $370 million in wages each year paid to workers who reside in our communities. Cardrooms have provided a livelihood for thousands of Californians who would otherwise struggle to find gainful employment. This measure will deprive all of those hardworking community members the ability to take care of their families and sustain economic stability and growth for our city."       

Jesse Alvarado, Council Member for the City of Hawaiian Gardens, said: “This initiative will be a significant blow to the City of Hawaiian Gardens. The Gardens Casino, which has operated in the City of Hawaiian Gardens for the past 22 years, is a critical partner to our entire community – providing more than 68% of our city’ total general fund revenues, which have played a vital role in our ability to fight crime and roll back major gang issues. If the eligible tribal gaming initiative were to become law, it would devastate our community.”

"The California Contract Cities Association overwhelmingly voted to oppose the qualified tribal gaming initiative as it will not benefit our residents or communities," said Marcel Rodarte, Executive Director, California Contract Cities Association. "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.”

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, has recently gathered enough signatures to become the second sports betting legalization proposal in November's elections.

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.

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