One of the state’s largest public sector unions is denouncing a California sports betting proposal backed by tribal casinos, saying the measure puts hundreds of millions in local tax revenue at risk.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) California is opposing Proposition 26, one of two competing initiatives that will appear on the General Election ballot in November.
‘Poison pill’ within California sports betting proposal
Prop 26 only permits in-person sports betting at California tribal casinos and California horse racing venues. The measure also expands the types of games tribal casinos can offer to include dice and roulette.
The union says Prop 26 contains language that will allow tribal casinos to take legal action against California cardrooms on the basis of alleged violations of state gambling laws.
Shavon Moore-Cage, a member of AFSCME Local 36, said Prop 26’s “poison pill” could bankrupt community cardrooms. She added the proposition puts “$500 million in local tax revenue at risk.”
According to a press release from Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies, a coalition funding Prop 26 opposition efforts, Moore-Cage believes public employee jobs are “on the line” when “city revenue is slashed.”
“This is not just some hypothetical statement,” Moore-Cage is quoted as saying. “I can tell you from experience what happens to city workers when cardrooms are forced to shut down. I myself got laid off when our local cardroom had to close during the pandemic. And I don’t want any more of my union brothers and sisters to suffer that same fate – especially when it can be avoided.”
Big money backing ‘yes’ and ‘no’ sports gambling campaigns
TASIM has raised over $37.5 million to fight the in-person California sports betting initiative, according to state campaign finance records. Total campaign spending on the two sports betting measures has already exceeded $355 million, according to a review by PlayCA.
Neither TASIM nor AFSCME supports Proposition 27, which would legalize online sports betting in California.
AFSCME is the largest trade union of public employees in the United States, representing nearly 1.3 million employees and retirees. The union is part of the AFL-CIO, one of the two main U.S. labor federations.
AFSCME California members include health care workers, corrections officers, sanitation workers, police officers, firefighters and childcare providers. The union typically backs Democratic candidates and policies and has spent millions in past elections supporting pro-labor ballot initiatives.
Sports betting politics makes strange bedfellows in California
The contentious public relations campaign between the dueling California sports betting proposals has split allegiances across the state.
Prop 26 is heavily favored by the state’s Native American-run casinos. The proposal also has support from some non-gaming tribes who benefit from gambling revenue distribution.
The California Democratic Party and California Teachers Association have both come out against Prop 27 while remaining neutral on Prop 26.
Online gaming companies, such as FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, are backing Prop 27, as are some non-profit organizations that focus on homelessness and mental health services.
Dozens of community leaders and municipalities representing cardrooms oppose Prop 26 because of the potential impact on revenue. A handful of non-gaming tribes have also come out in support of Prop 27.