Home Gambling Industry California Supreme Court greenlights ballot measure to expand tribal gaming efforts

California Supreme Court greenlights ballot measure to expand tribal gaming efforts

25 Feb 2022
3 min. read

California Supreme Court
The California Supreme Court refused to block a Native Indian tribes' November ballot measure that will seek approval for in-person gambling on both sports and certain casino games. Two legal gambling card rooms challenged the initiative that qualified for the ballot, with more than 1.5 million signatures collected. However, the efforts by Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova have failed.

The card rooms argued that the initiative of the tribes violates the state Constitution. It covers sports betting, roulette and dice games, and includes a provision that allows the tribes to sue any organizations that violate other gambling restrictions under California law. The Private Attorneys General Act allows private citizens to sue violators in the name of the state and receive 25% of the penalties. The rest goes to the state.

Lawyers for the card rooms argued to the court that the legalization of roulette and other dice games, as well as authorization of private enforcement suits, are "special-interest giveaways" not related to the "authorization, taxation and regulation of sports wagering."

The state Supreme Court has rarely disqualifies ballot measures that cover multiple subjects. However, it has upheld past initiatives whose provisions had some connection to crime. The court refused to hear the lawsuit by the card rooms on Wednesday in a single-line order that did not indicate any dissent from any of the six justices.

In the hope of receiving a favorable ruling, the card rooms filed their case in December directly with the state's highest court.

In light of the ruling, Maurice Suh, the lawyer for the card rooms, stated that "This isn't the end of the case" but rather the beginning.

The tribal measure is still on the November ballot. Rival initiatives were also proposed, but they have not been qualified. One of these, however, would allow online betting, which is different from the tribal initiative.

According to campaign spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks, the tribal campaign was pleased, but not surprised, that the court rejected the request of the card rooms to withdraw the ballot measure.

California law permits tribal casinos to allow adults to gamble on slot machines and other card games, provided they have signed compacts with the state. Card rooms may host poker games in which gamblers compete against each other. In 2004, voters rejected ballot measures that would have allowed slot machines in card rooms and made it possible to have more at tribal casinos.

Until 2018, betting on sports was prohibited by federal law in all 50 states, except Nevada. The law was declared unconstitutional because it interfered with the state's self-government. It has been legalized in most states, except for California. The tribal initiative would allow adults 21 and older to wager on sports at tribal casinos or racetracks.

25 Feb 2022
3 min. read