Supporters of Proposition 26, which authorizes in-person sports betting at California’s tribal casinos and four horseracing tracks, pitch the measure in humanitarian terms. It will “promote Indian self-reliance while generating hundreds of thousands of jobs,” a Yes on 26 website explains. Tribal leaders like to highlight the improved ambulance services the November measure would fund.
That’s fine, but whenever interest groups pull at our heartstrings voters can be sure there’s something less ennobling beneath the surface. Indeed, sophisticated gaming interests including California’s tribes are dropping a record-smashing $364 million on advertisements related to Prop. 26 and rival Prop. 27, which would fund homeless programs after legalizing online sports gambling.
We’ll weigh in on Prop. 27 separately, but guarantee that donors for both gambling measures are not dropping that kind of cash out of an altruistic desire to bolster self-reliance and public services. Specifically, Prop. 26 is an audaciously cynical measure – an effort by tribes to give themselves virtual monopoly control of sports betting in what is likely to be the nation’s largest sports-betting market.
Unlike 30 other states, California does not allow sports betting. Prop. 26 would legalize it, but only if gamblers show up at tribal casinos or racetracks. It would put the kibosh on efforts to legalize online sports betting – at least until tribes figure out how to monopolize that market, too. Tribal casinos would even gain the OK to offer roulette and dice games (after updating their compacts).
To highlight the pure anti-competitive intent of the initiative, Prop. 26 also allows “people or entities that believe someone is breaking these laws to file a civil lawsuit in state trial courts,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office explains. Tribes will have the tools to harass their long-time competitors, cardrooms, by filing lawsuits challenging the legality of the games they offer.
This is a raw money grab and has nothing to do with “self-reliance” and “responsible” gaming. We strongly support legalizing sports betting, but not by letting tribes crush their old and new competitors alike. We urge a no vote on Prop. 26.