Card Rooms Try New Venue For Lawsuit Against Tribal Sports Betting Initiative

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 7, 2022
Signature gathering has begun in California for an online tribal sports betting initiative

After being turned away by the California Supreme Court, two card rooms filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court attempting to invalidate the tribal sports betting initiative qualified for the November 2022 ballot.

In the filing made Friday, Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova asked the court to bar the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act from the November ballot. The card rooms claim it violates California’s constitutional rule that ballot initiatives can involve only a single subject.

On Feb. 23, the Supreme Court declined to issue a writ of mandate ordering California Secretary of State Shirley Weber to enforce California’s single-subject rule to invalidate the initiative.

Lead card room attorney Maurice Suh told PlayCA at the time that he would refile the case in Superior Court. Suh works for the Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson Dunn.

Plaintiffs petitioned the higher court to stop the initiative on an emergency basis because of limited time before the election.

Since the Supreme Court did not issue an opinion, Suh wants a full hearing in the lower court. He hopes to take the case back to the Supreme Court.

Reason for legal challenge

The tribal sports betting initiative qualified last May for the November 2022 ballot. It would amend the state constitution to allow for sports betting in-person only at tribal casinos and horse racetracks.

The card rooms named Weber as the defendant in the case because she certified the measure. Tribal chairmen petitioners Mark Macarro (Pechanga), Edwin Romero (Barona), Anthony Roberts (Yocha Dehe) and Jeff Grubbe (Agua Caliente) are included as real parties of interests.

Plaintiffs argue that the initiative addresses three distinct subjects:

  1. Legalizing sports wagering.
  2. Eliminating California’s ban on Las Vegas-style casinos by authorizing gaming tribes to add roulette and dice games.
  3. Expanding the Private Attorneys General Act to allow tribes to sue card rooms for alleged violations of the penal code.

Deven Kumar, general manager of Hollywood Park, issued the following statement:

“What this sports wagering ballot initiative really does is to surreptitiously destroy competition with California’s cardrooms by granting more rights to Tribal casinos, including the right to file a stream of lawsuits against card rooms. This is not what the initiative process was designed to do, and certainly not what this initiative is advertised to do.”

What’s next for card room effort

The card rooms are hoping for quick action from the Superior Court.

Unless petitioners withdraw the initiative from consideration, Weber must certify it for inclusion on the November ballot on June 30.

On Sept. 2, election ballots head off to the printer.

Before those dates, the plaintiffs seek a preemptory writ of mandate declaring the initiative invalid and preventing Weber from placing it on the ballot.

The case has yet to receive a judge or start date.

Many briefs already filed for the previous California sports betting case could apply to the new one. These include preliminary opposition filed by the tribal real parties of interest and a response from the card rooms.

 

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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