Native American tribes sue California State over Sports Betting Ballot Initiative

Native American tribes sue California State over Sports Betting Ballot Initiative

More than two dozen Native American tribes in California have filed a lawsuit against the Golden State, demanding more time to collect signatures to place a sports betting ballot referendum initiative before voters.

Claiming that only tribal casinos and horse racetracks like Santa Anita Park should be permitted to operate sports betting in California, the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which consists of nearly 26 Native American tribes in the state, has demanded more time to obtain at least 997,139 signatures from voters that are required to place the measure on the ballot. The coalition argued the deadly corona virus pandemic and Governor Gavin Newsom’s “stay-at-home” order made the process of collecting signatures unattainable.

California State law provides a time period of 180 days to obtain the necessary signatures from voters for any ballot measure. The tribal sports betting ballot measure was formally approved by the Golden State on January 20th this year. It means the coalition has until July 20th to submit the necessary signatures. But, the coalition is now arguing that the COVID-19 lockdown made the deadline unrealistic. According to Kenneth Kahn, chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the effort is to preserve the native tribes’ democratic right.

Speaking on the topic, Kahn said, “This is about seeking to preserve the people’s democratic right to pursue an initiative during the pandemic. Tribal leaders temporarily suspended signature gathering as a sacrifice to protect everyone’s public health.”

Through the lawsuit, the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering is seeking an extension of ninety days and looking to place the measure on the ballot in 2022. Currently, the measure is scheduled to be placed on the ballot this November.

While the tribes filed a lawsuit against California, a sports betting measure in the Golden State legislature moved ahead. Senate Constitutional Amendment 6, which was tabled in the legislature last year by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), has received green signal from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Measure is now waiting for a fiscal review so that it may move to the chamber floor for further consideration. The bill would tax in-person and online bets at 10 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. One-time licensing fees would initially be fixed at $5 million, with the provision of renewing it annually a cost of $1 million. In addition to tribes, commercial card clubs and other businesses would be able to operate sports betting.