Any uncertainty about where Central Valley leaders stood on the Tribal Sports Wagering Act is now clear, with several voicing their opinions at a press conference this past week. Fresno city leaders are urging a “no” vote on the tribal gaming act.
The tribal gaming act one of two California sports betting initiatives on November’s ballot. If approved, in-person sports betting will be allowed exclusively at tribal casinos and certain racetracks in California. Tribal casinos could also offer dice games and roulette.
The press conference at city hall included city councilmembers and also business leaders. They spoke about the economic and legal impact passage of the act would have on their communities.
Tribal Sports Wagering Act would be ‘an absolute disaster’
Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez said passage of the measure would hinder card rooms in the Fresno area. And, in turn, city services.
“We receive over a million dollars from our local card room folks here. They employ over four hundred people and we know that those resources are used for our parks, for our police, fire, [and] infrastructure in our communities. So we know the type of negative affect this will have on our community, particularly at the local level.”
City Councilmember Mike Karbassi echoed Chavez, pointing to a direct economic impact on a region of California that’s battling poverty.
“The qualified tribal gaming measure would be a disaster for the Central Valley, an absolute disaster.”
Karbassi said the city relies on the tax money card rooms generate to help fight the region’s poverty levels. Around one out of four people in the Central Valley live below the poverty line, according to a 2020 MIT study. Additionally “over a third of households do not have a net worth sufficient to cover three months of poverty-level expenses.”
The councilmembers’ worries are based on the notion that, should the tribal gaming measure pass, then bettors who would normally go to Fresno card rooms would instead go to tribal casinos to play cards and bet on sports.
Card rooms could be sued, CEO says
Central Valley Business Federation CEO Clint Olivier was concerned about the act’s legal implications. It would open up litigation against California card rooms, he said. Olivier is referring to a section of the act that allows citizens to sue card rooms for illegal gambling activities.
“This would … allow folks to sue these card rooms and that could result in a lot of financial loss.”
Olivier was also pessimistic about whether the act would help to curb illegal gambling. He pointed to the 1986 law that set up the California lottery to improve the state’s education system.
“It didn’t solve the problems that they promised to solve. Now we have a lottery that millions of people every week and every day pour money into and the schools are worse than they were in 1986.”
Act is ‘a responsible first step,’ opponent says
Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for Californians for Safe, Responsible Gaming, offered counterpoints. She told KGPE news station the act is key to controlling the state’s sports betting market.
“We think that it’s a responsible first step. Because with in-person gambling you can check IDs and you can make sure that the people who are gambling aren’t under 21.”
As for citizens suing card rooms? Fairbanks said the act is simply enforcing laws that are already in place.