COVID-19 Jeopardizes California’s Push to Legalize Sports Betting

April 2, 2020 by Natalie Whitehead

CaliforniaAn initiative launched by Native American tribes in the state of California has hit a major skid due to widespread shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented the tribes from collecting the necessary signatures for the initiative to enter the ballot.

The initiative will now likely fail to meet the deadline of April 21 to submit the gathered signatures for verification via a random sampling.

The initiative is not completely dead, but it will likely take an extension from the governor or the legislature to enter the ballot.

Three weeks ago, the initiative appeared to be progressing according to plan.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tribes suspended their efforts to gather signatures, according to the tribes’ spokesman, Jacob Mejia—he also stated that tribe leaders remain steadfast in their goal of bringing their initiative to the November ballots.

The initiative required 997,139 valid signatures for eligibility to become a constitutional amendment. The tribes had hoped to gather a minimum of 1.5 million votes to lock up the needed number of signatures; they gathered a little short of 1 million signatures.

For the tribes, the April 21 deadline may still be doable, but it will be exceedingly difficult. California is currently under a shelter-in-place order that may last up to eight weeks, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The companies that collect signatures for the tribes have been shuttered; even if they were operational, many Americans are wary of getting too close to the gatherers. An extension would likely be necessary for the initiative to push through, but Newsom has so far avoided committing to doing so.

Opposition Rears Up as Initiative Stalls

California’s cardrooms have taken the initiative’s faltering as a cue to ramp up their efforts to oppose its entering the ballot. A campaign called “No on the Gambling Power Grab” is in full swing, bankrolled largely by industry players.

The campaign has already collected $7 million in contributions, with $2.25 million each coming from Knighted Ventures LLC and Parkwest Casinos. Other notable contributors include Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Hollywood Park Casino, Bicycle Casino, PT Gaming LLC, and Elevation Entertainment Group, who each donated $500,000 to the cause.

According to the spokesman of the campaign, Steven Maviglio, $7 million is just the starting point; Maviglio expects card rooms hoping to enter the legal sports betting market in California will spend much more to ensure that local tribes will not have a monopoly on an industry that could be worth billions.

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If there is one topic that really gets Natalie excited it has to be the mathematics of gambling, having worked for a major gaming company in the audit department she loves nothing more than revealing all manner of facts and figures. Many of her news stories relate to both online and bricks and mortar gaming and are always worth checking out.

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