Card Room Challenge Of California Sports Betting Initiative Dismissed Again

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 3, 2022 - Last Updated on August 2, 2022
Sports betting in California

California card rooms faced strike two in their attempt to keep the tribal sports betting initiative from reaching the ballot.

Petitioners Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova sought a writ of mandate prohibiting the Secretary of State from placing the California sports betting initiative on the ballot.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge sustained California Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s demur to the petition for a writ of mandate for failure to state a cause of action and on the grounds that the Los Angeles Superior Court has no jurisdiction over the petition.

Judge Mary H. Strobel also granted the special motion to strike from the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering. The campaign representing the qualified tribal initiative served as a real party of interest in the case.

Another setback for CA card rooms

The card rooms are trying to compel Weber to keep the tribal initiative off the ballot by contending it violates the single-subject rule.

Petitioners claim the initiative addresses three subjects:

  • Legalizing in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racetracks
  • Authorizing tribal casinos to offer roulette and dice games
  • Allowing gaming tribes to sue card rooms for alleged illegal gaming activities and violations of the penal code

Tribal parties of interest countered that these all fall under the subject of gaming.

But a court still hasn’t addressed the merits of the case on the single-subject rule.

Reasons for dismissal of card room’s sports betting lawsuit

The basis for the dismissal centered around the judge’s ruling that California Elections code 13314 is the appropriate mechanism for challenging the single-subject rule.

The petitioners filed for the writ of mandate pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure 1085.

The elections code states that when the Secretary of State is named as a respondent or a statewide measure to be placed on the ballot is the subject of the proceeding, the venue for the case shall be exclusively in Sacramento County.

In granting the motion to strike, the judge also ruled that because the petitioners are not electors, they lack standing to bring the instant petition and did not show a probability of prevailing.

California’s single-subject rule states that “an initiative measure embracing more than one subject may not be submitted to the electors or have any effect.”

If an elector is required to challenge the single-subject rule, that could further complicate the card rooms moving forward.

Third try’s the charm?

Although the card rooms faced another setback, they could try again in Sacramento Superior Court.

Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova first filed the lawsuit Dec. 21 in the California Supreme Court. But the state’s highest court declined to take the case.

Gibson Dunn, the Los Angeles-based law firm representing the card rooms, quickly regrouped and refiled the case in Los Angeles on March 4. The petitioners hoped to get the case back to the Supreme Court through a regular path.

Dunn can refile the case in Sacramento. But now there’s little time left to resolve the election issues prior to the Sept. 2 ballot-printing deadline.

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Matthew Kredell

A fifth-generation Californian, Matthew's 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. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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