The California Democratic Party officially came out Sunday against a proposed state constitutional amendment to legalize online sports betting. That decision by the party’s executive board, as well as one to remain neutral on the tribal-backed retail sports betting measure, were some of the positions the party took on ballot referendums for this year’s general election.
An aerial view of the San Francisco skyline with Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, in the foreground. Over the weekend, the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board voted to oppose a proposition to legalize online sports betting in the state and remain neutral on a measure to allow tribal casinos to operate sportsbooks. (Photo: Alex Menendez/Adobe Stock)
Those decisions came one day after the party’s Resolutions Committee on Saturday reviewed the various measures going before voters on Nov. 8. They recommended those stances on the sports betting bills.
The Democratic Party is the largest political party in the country’s largest state, representing nearly 10.2 million voters and holding almost a 2-to-1 edge over registered Republicans. It controls both chambers of the California State Legislature, as well as the governor’s mansion.
The decision by party leaders comes about six weeks after the California Teachers Association, one of the largest public-sector unions in the state, also came out against the online sports betting proposal. That prop calls for revenues from online wagering to fund services for the homeless, mental health programs, and some tribal economic development initiatives.
Learn more about the two California sports betting measures here.
Whether party leaders’ actions will influence voters remains to be seen. But California tribal leaders who oppose the online sports betting measure, also known as Proposition 27, were quick to make hay out of it.
“By opposing Prop 27, California Democrats rejected out-of-state corporations and reaffirmed their commitment to California’s Indian tribes,” Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Chairman Reid Milanovich said in a statement. “Prop 27 is not a solution to anything. It would expose children to a massive expansion of gambling and turn every cell phone, gaming console, tablet and laptop into a gambling device. Prop 27 is a direct attack on tribal gaming and Indian self-reliance.”
While tribal leaders claim Prop 27 would expose kids to gaming, online sports betting is currently allowed in 20 states, plus the District of Columbia. There have been few reports of licensed sportsbooks or online gaming operators facing charges of allowing underaged bettors to make wagers.
Prop 27 Group Says Measure Has Momentum
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support,” pointed out to Casino.org in a statement Sunday that the state Democratic Party took stances on 11 ballot measures two years ago and voters ended up backing only four of those endorsed positions.
He said the pro-Prop 27 campaign has momentum behind it.
Californians across the political spectrum support our measure because it’s the only one that provides hundreds of millions of dollars in solutions to homelessness, mental health, and addiction, and it’s the only one that supports small and disadvantaged tribes,” Click said.
Prop 27 also has support from some key Democrats in the state. That includes Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. In addition, “Californians for Solutions” has $100 million in funds from seven major sports betting operators to promote the measure. It also has received endorsements from three smaller tribal nations based in the state.
Union Issue Leads to Neutral Stance on Prop 26
The Democrats’ stance against Prop 27 does not necessarily translate into good news for supporters of Proposition 26, which would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and state-licensed racetracks. The party took a neutral stand on that measure.
According to people who attended Saturday’s Resolution Committee session, a key hangup was a provision in Prop 26. That clause would allow private entities to go take action on what they believe is illegal gaming activities.
Representatives for the tribal-led campaigns have insisted that language would not lead to state-licensed cardroom casinos being shutting down. But cardroom supporters argue that tribal nations and others could take advantage of that provision to go after cardrooms.
With labor unions representing some of the cardrooms, it led party leaders to not take a stance either way.
Committee votes to remain neutral on #prop26. Concerned re private right of enforcement, which opponents say tribes would use and abuse to put (unionized) card rooms out of business.
— RL Miller (@RL_Miller) July 10, 2022
Like the online sports betting operators and the tribal gaming entities, cardroom casinos and their supporters also announced plans to put a sports betting measure on the November ballot. However, they ended up not getting signatures for their proposed measure.
Since then, cardroom casinos and their supporters, which include cities where cardrooms are located, have put their focus on defeating Prop 26.
Last week, the anti-Prop 26 group “Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies,” which has received millions from cardroom casinos, issued a statement saying that more than 70 cities, as well as a slew of business and civic groups in the state, oppose the tribal gaming measure.
Besides tribal nations, individuals and groups that support Prop 26 include the Communications Workers of America, the California Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP, more than 20 chambers of commerce, and labor activist Dolores Huerta.
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