California is a beacon of democracy. To get things done you don't have to go through the state legislator. Instead, if you want to change the law you can simply put it up to vote on a ballot, and if it passes you win. That's what tribal leaders hoped to do in California. They wanted the right to offer sports betting at tribal casinos.
There's just one rub. You need to collect enough signatures to get the law you want to be put on the ballot. In most years this would not be that hard – particularly with something most people want like sports gambling. But then the coronavirus struck. And because of that, the tribal organizations were not able to go door to door getting signatures.
This is a once in a lifetime issue as never before in the history of California has the entire population been told to stay inside. When the law was written they could not possibly have envisioned what would happen when something like the coronavirus struck.
So now the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which represents more than 25 Native American tribes throughout California has decided to file suit against the state asking for more time to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot for next year.
The coalition is seeking an extension of at least 90 days in hopes of qualifying for the following election. State law gives proponents of a ballot measure 180 days to gather the signatures needed, regardless of the timing of the election in which it will be considered by voters.
“This is about seeking to preserve the people’s democratic right to pursue an initiative during the pandemic,” said Kenneth Kahn, chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “Tribal leaders temporarily suspended signature gathering as a sacrifice to protect everyone’s public health.”
It is unclear what the state's position would be.
Staff members are “reviewing the litigation and do not have a specific comment on it at this time,” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for the Secretary of State.
The initiative would allow sports betting at tribal casinos and horse tracks but not at rival card clubs or online, and would create a 10% tax on sports gaming revenue at the racetracks.