Under fire by tribes for the language in his proposed sports gaming bill, SCA 6, California Senator Bill Dodd has proposed changes that would delay the implementation of mobile wagering and further restrict cardrooms.
A spokesman for the senator said Dodd hopes the changes will “make legalized sports betting become reality in California.”
The major proposed changes to the bill would be in the way cardrooms offer table games. The bill limits sports betting to tribal casinos and racetracks, but tries to sweeten the deal by legalizing the current way card clubs offer banked games—and which most tribes claim violate the state constitution.
For a decade, tribes have claimed that card clubs are violating their exclusive rights to offer banked card games. The amendments to Dodd’s bill would mandate rotation of the dealing at card clubs, mandate fees for players, create a moratorium on new cardroom licenses and table games, and limit the growth of cardrooms while making it harder for them to relocate. It would also restrict advertising.
Ask to comment on the changes, Susan Jensen, executive director of California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) told GGB News: “We have not yet received the amendments. We are holding our comments until we have seen actual bill language. As soon as we receive and have had time to review we will be happy to provide comment.”
David Quintana, a lobbyist who represents several tribes, told Legal Sports Report: “Unfortunately, these amendments were worked out without the opposition at the table. They still fall exceedingly short of anything close to being acceptable and so the tribes who were opposed are still opposed.”
Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, dismissed the amendment in an email to Dodd.
“You’ve heard the expression lipstick on a pig?” wrote Macarro. “This adds the mascara on the same pig. It just got worse, is what happened. It talks about enforcement language, which is really enforcing the games the cardrooms will play, but after they get to legalize the illegal things they’re doing now.”
A spokesman for the card clubs commented, “All cardrooms advocated for was the status quo for their industry, and to allow the state to capture sorely needed revenue from the illegal sports betting market. While there is no cardroom in the state that likes any of these newly imposed restrictions, it’s something much of the industry is willing to consider in order to help the state solve this challenge.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee hearings that were supposed to have been held Thursday, June 18, were pulled and rescheduled for Tuesday, June 23, but sources tell GGB they will likely be pushed back further, perhaps not until the fall.
Gaming tribes fear mobile sports betting will keep players away from their casinos. So the revised bill would phase in mobile wagering, not fully implementing it until 2023. Milestones in the rollout would be in September, when the NFL season begins.
- In Phase 1, sportsbooks would debut September 2021 at licensed casinos and racetracks with mobile sports betting limited to those locations. Racetracks would be limited to offering five sportsbook locations.
- In Phase 2, September 2022, statewide sports betting would go live but participants would be required to register in person at casinos and racetracks.
- In Phase 3, September 2023, that requirement would be lifted and players would be able to register remotely.
Also as part of the amendments, the proposed annual sports wagering license fee would be cut in half, from $1 million to $500,000.
Meantime, unmoved by the compromise, the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Betting, which includes about 25 gaming tribes as well as racetracks is trying to qualify their own measure for the 2022 ballot. They were stopped cold by the pandemic in March when they were close to getting the nearly 1 million signatures needed.
Jacob Mejia, a spokesman, called the proposal a “farce” and said that the amendments were “meaningless window dressing.” He added, “The bill would still repeal tribal gaming rights and hand them to cardrooms that have been raided by the FBI for money laundering and have been involved with loan sharking and other criminal activities.”
June 9 the coalition sued the state in Superior Court asking for an extension to collect signatures—although they are now aiming at the 2022 November ballot.
The current deadline to collect the 1,096,853 that would give them enough signatures, plush a 10 percent cushion is June 25. The coalition is seeking that the deadline be extended and that the signatures be considered valid so that they don’t have to start at square one to qualify for 2022.
They argue that they have already spent $7 million and should be allowed to continue with what they were doing before the statewide lockdown halted their efforts.
Their attorneys wrote: “The will of almost one million voters who signed the Initiative petition will have been frustrated.”
The measure would allow tribes to add roulette, dice games and sports wagering on tribal lands to the Las Vegas style games that they currently offer. It would authorize on-site sports wagering only at the state’s racetracks and at tribal casinos.
Unlike Dodd’s bill, it would not tax sportsbook at tribal casinos, but would levy a 10 percent tax at racetracks.
The measure offers something else sure not to endear it to card rooms: it authorizes “private lawsuits” to enforce state gaming laws to protect the tribe’s exclusivity. This goes around what has been the state’s reluctance to file such cases for the tribes.