After the California Republican Party came out against in-person tribal sports betting Proposition 26, a No on 26 campaign sponsored by California cardrooms made a big contribution to the Party.
Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies contributed $2.5 million to the California Republican Party on Sept. 8.
Earlier this year, the California GOP joined with Democrats to oppose both initiatives that would legalize California sports betting.
Explaining the party contributions
It’s not uncommon for campaigns to make contributions to political parties after they take stances on ballot measures.
The political parties will conduct mail programs and contact voters with recommendations for each election. And each party contacts the campaigns with which they align asking them to contribute in support of these efforts.
But the $2.5 million contribution is particularly large. And it’s a significant chunk of the $40,575,000 invested into the campaign by California cardroom interests.
Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming, a campaign in opposition of Prop 27, contributed $500,000 to the GOP after the Party opposed the online sports betting initiative.
A Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming spokesperson tells PlayCA that it won’t be donating to either party. This group supports Prop 26 and opposes Proposition 27, which would legalize online sports betting in California.
The California Democratic Party announced its opposition to Prop 27 in July. It officially took a neutral stance on Prop 26. No campaign related to the competing initiatives has contributed to that party since those announcements.
Republicans won’t stand with tribes against California cardrooms
When the GOP released its positions, Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson sent the following statement to the No on 27 campaign:
“Prop 27 breaks the promise made to California’s Native American tribes to grant them the sovereign right to operate gaming in California in order to improve the lives of their communities across the state. We stand with California tribes and oppose Prop 27.”
Standing with the California tribes backing Prop 26 is another story.
Ellie Hockenbury, communications director for the California Republican Party, told PlayCA this is because Prop 26 isn’t just about sports betting.
“Prop 26 threatens jobs and local economies and is an expansion of [Private Attorneys General Act] provisions, opening the door to frivolous lawsuits where businesses can be sued regardless of whether or not they are found in violation. We do not support Prop 26 and the uncertainty it would provide for businesses and the local communities that rely on them.”
Opposition centers around language that would allow tribes to directly sue cardrooms. The tribes and cardrooms have a long-standing issue over the way cardrooms use third-party vendors to offer blackjack. This practice circumvents tribal exclusivity over house-banked games.
Cities and workers winning over political parties
The No on 26 campaign claims that the measure’s passage would put California cardrooms out of business.
Many cities across the state have more than half of their budgets from cardroom revenue. This could jeopardize more than 32,000 jobs, $1.6 billion in wages, $5.5 billion in economic impact, and local services and programs across the state.
“Every time one of these lawsuits comes up, cardrooms have to close for 30 days,” Shavon Moore-Cage, representing American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 36, told PlayCA. “There’s more than 80 local cardrooms in minority communities all around California. When I speak up, I’m speaking for all of those communities.”
The argument not only made an impact with the Republicans. After hearing from Moore-Cage at their elections board meeting, the California Democratic Party opted to go neutral on Prop 26. This came despite receiving massive financial support from the tribes behind the proposition.
Becky Warren, spokesperson for the No on Prop 26 campaign, summed it up to PlayCA:
“Overwhelmingly, Californians are opposing Proposition 26 as it is a dramatic expansion to gaming that primarily benefits five wealthy tribal casinos that are attempting to gain market share over their competitors. The result is lost jobs and harm to communities across California. This is why both political parties have chosen not to support Proposition 26, in addition to union workers, small businesses, cities, veterans and animal welfare advocates.”