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Sports Betting Initiative Could Put California Cardrooms Out of Business

#REJECT THE MEASURE: Commerce Mayor Oralia Rebollo; Compton Mayor Emma Sharif; Bell Gardens Councilwoman Alejandra Cortez; California Cities for Self-Reliance Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Juan Garza; Brenda Villa, four-time Olympian and gold medalist in water polo; Hawaiian Gardens Councilmember Jesse Alvarado, and others at the press conference calling on Los Angeles voters to reject the measure in the November election.


By Brian Hews

May 27, 2022~Los Angeles area elected officials and Brenda Villa, four-time Olympic Champion from Commerce, gathered in Commerce to expose the detrimental local impacts on jobs and city revenues if the eligible tribal sports betting gaming initiative on November’s ballot is passed.

If passed, it threatens the future of community programs like the Commerce Senior Center Breakfast (location where press conference is held).

Collectively, the Los Angeles region stands to lose at least $71.1 million in direct general fund tax revenue if the eligible tribal gaming initiative passes by voters – significantly limiting local government’s ability to fund public health, homelessness services, senior programs, after-school programs, and a myriad of vital public services.

Those attending were Juan Garza, California Cities for Self-Reliance Joint Powers Authority; Brenda Villa, Four-Time Olympic Champion Water Polo; Oralia Rebollo, Mayor, City of Commerce; Emma Sharif, Mayor, City of Compton; Jesse Alvarado, Council Member-City of Hawaiian Gardens and Alejandra Cortez, Council Member-City of Bell Gardens

They say the initiative would fuel excessive litigation against cardrooms, potentially shutting them down, effectively killing 32,000 jobs and wiping out $1.6 billion in annual wages.

The initiative is backed by Pechanga Resort Casino along with several businesses and public safety, social justice and community groups and tribes — has no official name but is referred to as the Tribal Sports Wagering Act.

It would allow sports wagering at tribal casinos and at four California racetracks — Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, Del Mar in San Diego and Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

Opponents say the measure would give tribal casinos a near-monopoly on all gaming in California – adding exclusivity over roulette, craps and sports wagering to their current monopoly on slot machines.

They contend it also would also expand the Private Attorneys General Act, allowing tribal casinos to hire private trial lawyers, effectively replacing the role of the state’s attorney general to sue cardrooms and potentially forcing them out of business over costly litigation.

Fears are ‘misconstrued’

Ignoring the fact that tribes will access new revenue streams and expose cardrooms to new lawsuits, Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, gaslighted the cardrooms saying the fears surrounding the initiative have been misconstrued.

“Our measure simply ensures existing laws preventing illegal gambling are being followed,” she said.

Opponents of the Pechanga initiative still fear a tribal casino monopoly on gaming and increased PAGA litigation might prove too costly to fight and could result in cardroom closures.

Bell Gardens Councilwoman Alejandra Cortez said the Bicycle generates nearly 50%, or $15 million, of the city’s revenue. If the Bike was forced to close down the impact would be catastrophic, she said.

“We got a preview of what that would be like when we had to shut down in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cortez said. “It was closed for nine months and it resulted in a loss of about $10 million.”

Cortez said those are critical funds that help pay for police service, public works and other basic services needed to keep the city up and running.

Hawaiian Gardens would suffer an even bigger hit, according to City Councilman Jesse Alvarado.

“The Gardens Casino, which has operated in the city of Hawaiian Gardens for the past 22 years, is a critical partner to our entire community – providing more than 70% of our city’s total general fund revenues,” Alvarado said.

The money, he said, has played a vital role in the city’s ability to fight crime and roll back major gang-control issues.

“If the eligible tribal gaming initiative were to become law, it would devastate our community,” Alvarado said.

Commerce Mayor Oralia Rebollo said Commerce Casino generates about 46% of her city’s annual revenue, and it’s never been accused of money laundering.

“They have always been transparent, so we’ve never had to endure these types of issues,” she said. “I take pride in how the casino is managed.”