After the organization filed a lawsuit

California sports betting: cardrooms remove "misleading" NAACP quote from ballot arguments; find new ally in animal groups

Rick Callender, Esq., President of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP.
Reading time 3:22 min

The battle over sports betting legalization in California keeps getting more entangled. Parties opposing Proposition 26 –a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow retail sportsbooks at Indian casinos and state-licensed racetracks– have now removed a quote from ballot arguments that included the NAACP as against that plan.

In a statement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the quote a “deceptive and inappropriate” move by cardrooms, which came despite the civil rights organization “strongly supporting” Prop 26. 

"We're glad the card room casino operators did the right thing and removed the deceptive and inappropriate quote from their No on 26 ballot arguments," said Rick Callender, Esq., President of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP. "Despite the California-Hawaii NAACP's strong support for Prop 26, opponents tried to deceive voters into thinking the opposite.”

The argument against Prop 26 contained the following quote, which will now be removed: "We oppose Prop 26 to protect young people from developing lifelong gambling addictions that often lead to ruined finances, relationships, even homelessness and crime." It was attributed to Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, Retired teacher and President Emeritus of the Los Angeles NAACP Branch.

Shortly after taking notice of the quote, on August 2, the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court seeking to remove the “deceptive and inappropriate use” of its name in the No on 26 ballot arguments. 

The NAACP formally supports Prop 26, and the lawsuit claimed that the statement in the ballot arguments was “false and misleading,” while also violating the organization’s bylaws governing the use of its trademarked name. Furthermore, it noted that the Los Angeles NAACP Branch does not have the “President Emeritus” position and it is a “made-up title.”

The controversial quote was included in a statement against Prop 26 by “Taxpayers Against Special Interests Monopolies,” a group funded by state-licensed cardroom casinos. It was set to appear in a state-published voter’s guide about the initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot. But rather than have a judge rule on the matter, the group has now agreed to the NAACP’s demand.

“Thankfully, voters will not be provided this false and misleading quote in the official voter guide sent to every voter,” added Callender. The NAACP further called the Tribal Sports Wagering Act “the most responsible approach to authorizing sports betting in California," allowing in-person betting at a tribal casino with safeguards in place to prevent underage and illegal gambling.

It will help create jobs and economic opportunities that support Indian self-reliance, while benefiting all Californians, generating tens of millions of dollars annually in new revenues for public schools, wildfire prevention and other state priorities,” the organization added.

Cardrooms find another ally

Cardrooms operating in the state have long opposed Prop 26, which they claim would virtually give tribal casino operators a monopoly on gaming. In addition to permitting sports betting, the measure would also legalize dice-based table games and roulette at tribal casinos.

Moreover, cardrooms point out that this measure includes language that would allow tribal casinos and other entities to take cardrooms to court by claiming they’re conducting illegal gaming activity. Cardrooms say this provision could force them to close, although tribal gaming supporters say these venues have nothing to worry about as long as they operate legally.

Del Mar Racetrack, one of California's four state-licensed tracks

While cardrooms have seemingly lost the opportunity to use the NAACP quote, they still did find supporters for their cause last week in several animal welfare organizations in the state. Their opposition stems from California’s four state-licensed racetracks also receiving retail sportsbooks if Prop 26 passes. “Taxpayers Against” issued a statement with quotes from representatives.

“Prop 26 provides a financial ‘shot in the arm’ to private horseracing tracks with no requirement or accountability towards increasing animal safety,” said Jill Tucker, CEO of the California Animal Welfare Association. Animal welfare advocates argue the tracks and horsemen need to focus on improving the sport’s safety record, which has come under scrutiny in recent years.

Sportsbooks also making moves

Meanwhile, a second measure, Proposition 27, seeks to legalize statewide online sports betting while redirecting a percentage of tax revenue to address homelessness. It would allow out-of-state commercial sports betting entities to enter the market, and is backed by a coalition of major sportsbook operators, including giants DraftKings and FanDuel, among others.

The battle over sports betting legalization in the state has kept heating up as of late with all gaming stakeholders ramping up their campaigning and lobbying efforts with less than 100 days until the ballot. The pushes are likely to make this become the state’s most expensive political campaign ever in California.

Gambling companies launched a controversial ad last week in which they took shots at “wealthy tribes with big casinos,” alleging they are seeking to keep “all the money” from sports betting to themselves. The move was blasted by state tribes, which called it “despicable” and argued it directly attacked California tribal leaders.

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