California tribes have been working on getting a sports betting initiative on the ballot in November, but the coronavirus pandemic put a huge damper on these plans. The tribes are now suing the state to get more time to collect the required amount of signatures needed.
More than 20 Native American tribes in California created the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which sought to legalize sports betting at tribal casinos. The coalition was required to collect close to one million signatures from registered voters for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, but they have come up short.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order in March in response to the coronavirus, and the tribes argue that it kept them from reaching their goal. State law allows ballot measures 180 days to collect the required amount of signatures, and time is running out.
The state officially approved the ballot measure on Jan. 20, and the signatures must be submitted by July 20. With the state still under the stay-at-home order, there won’t be enough time for this to take place.
The lawsuit is not seeking any money for the state, but rather a 90-day extension to continue collecting signatures. The tribes have also announced that they are now looking to get the measure on the ballot in 2022 rather than this year.
The initiative would limit sports betting to tribal casinos, which leaves out commercial card clubs. Tribes would be forced to pay a licensing fee to the state and tax on the gross gaming revenue.
California Facing Major Budget Deficit
California is facing a $54 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year, and the coronavirus pandemic played a huge role in this. California will be looking for ways to fix their budget issues, and sports betting is one of the proposed ideas.
Sports betting experts predict that California could become one of the biggest markets in the US if they were to legalize the industry. California is home to 16 professional sports teams and dozens of Division I athletic teams.
Some financial experts have predicted that the state could bring in close to $500 million in tax revenue each year, which would help out the budget crisis. Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed several budget cuts, but lawmakers are now trying to get sports betting approved.
Sports Betting Legislation Continues to Advance
Lawmakers in California have used the budget crisis to re-introduce sports betting legislation, and the bill is getting plenty of support. Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 is the bill that is drawing plenty of attention as it continues to move through the Senate.
SCA 6 was originally proposed by Senator Bill Dodd in 2019, but the bill went nowhere a year ago. Now, Dodd has received plenty of support, and it appears that California is moving towards legalization.
The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved SCA 6 on Tuesday, which will now be sent for fiscal review. If it passes that step, the bill will head to the Senate floor, where it will be discussed before a vote is taken.
SCA 6 would allow tribal casinos, card clubs, racetracks, and other businesses to apply for a sports betting license. Tribes are hoping to create a monopoly on the sports betting industry, but the state is hoping to include commercial card clubs.
For the bill to head to the ballot in November, it would require a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the Assembly. Tribal nations have already started lobbying against the bill in hopes of keeping it off of the ballot.