The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, representing over 25 Native American tribes in California, sued the state on Tuesday. They are seeking more time in order to add a sports betting initiative on the statewide ballot.
The coalition claims that California’s pandemic shutdown kept the group from attaining a sufficient amount of voter signatures in recent months. The lawsuit was filed after many state officials claim health and safety concerns would hinder voters from going to the polls. California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered ballots to be mailed to voters for this year’s elections.
Originally, the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering planned on making it to this year’s November ballot, but say they have now run out of time. According to the state, the initiative could still qualify by June 25 for the 2020 ballot but it is unlikely.
Since they are unable to proceed as planned, the coalition hopes to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Essentially, this would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks and is what they are hoping to achieve with this lawsuit.
Coalition Makes the Case that COVID-19 Should Grant Them an Exception
According to state law, advocates have 180 days to collect the amount of signatures needed. This time period does not change regardless of when the elections will be hosted.
The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering needs 997,139 signatures by July 20 in order to qualify for the 2022 Ballot. Considering the coalition will soon surpass the 180-day time frame, they are hoping to be granted an extra 90 days to promote qualifying for the following election.
Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Kenneth Kahn, claims the initiative helps maintain the people of California’s democratic right to vote and participate despite the pandemic. He also says that even tribal leaders have suspended signature gatherings for the time being to protect everyone’s health.
The tribes are also protected under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and by enforcing the deadline, this would violate their rights to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This was included in the lawsuit filed against Secretary of State Alex Padilla in Sacramento County Superior Court.
By the time Gov. Newsom had issued the stay at home order in mid-March, the tribes had spent over $7 million to attain 971,373 signatures. This has inevitably made it difficult for the coalition to collect the required amount of signatures, but would be too costly to abandon and begin the process all over again at a later time.
The lawsuit requests a deadline extension of 90 days, or until all of California’s counties are in the third of four stages in Newsom’s reopening plan for the state. A spokesman for the Secretary of State, Sam Mahood, claims they are reviewing the litigation but did not have any other comment to add.
The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering’s initiative would not allow sports betting at rival card clubs or online sports betting. Sports betting would be subject to tribal casinos and horse tracks. Sports gaming revenue would also have a 10% tax at the racetracks.
Meanwhile, another ballot initiative rejected by the tribes is currently being considered by the state. This measure would allow sports betting in all of its most popular forms, including online.
Since 2018, twenty-two other states have legalized sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court essentially legalized sports betting. The state of California hopes to utilize revenue made from sports betting to make up for the budget deficit after quarantine. Both initiatives can agree that sports betting is occurring illegally regardless, and in times of economic struggle, the state should be using their resources as efficiently as possible.