The California Republican Party on Friday announced its positions on the ballot measures going before voters in November, and when it came to the two sports betting measures, the GOP’s delegates took the same position on both.
The party formally voted to oppose Proposition 26, which would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and state-licensed racetracks, and Proposition 27, which would allow online sports betting across the state.
“Voters are with Republicans on the ideas, and with our final ballot initiative positions now in place, we are ready to put in the work to ensure that voters are with us again this November,” state party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement. “From now until polls close, we will be talking to voters about these important initiatives.”
Last month, the California Democratic Party announced its executive board formally voted to oppose Prop 27. However, it chose to remain neutral on Prop 26. And just last week, the state legislative leaders from both parties came together to announce their opposition to the online measure.
Tribal Group Quick to Respond
Tribal gaming supporters were quick to pounce on the GOP’s position – at least its opposition to the online sports betting measure. On Friday afternoon, the “Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming,” a tribal-backed political committee that supports Prop 26 and opposes Prop 27, issued a statement noting that both major parties were in unison on Prop 27. That statement included remarks from both party’s chairs, and each claimed the online measure hurts tribal gaming.
Prop 27 breaks the promise made to California’s Native American tribes to grant them the sovereign right to operate gaming in California in order to improve the lives of their communities across the state,” Patterson said. “We stand with California tribes and oppose Prop 27.”
Patterson’s comment was also published by “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming,” another tribal-backed committee that’s opposed to Prop 27.
While the party seems to back tribal gaming, the GOP did not take the next step to support – or even remain neutral on – Prop 26.
In a statement to Casino.org, Ellie Hockenbury, the state GOP deputy executive director and communications director, said that Republican leaders are wary about a provision in Prop 26 that would allow tribes or other groups to take cardroom casinos to court over allegations of illegal gaming practices.
“Prop. 26 threatens jobs and local economies and is an expansion of PAGA-like provisions, opening the door to frivolous lawsuits where businesses can be sued regardless of whether or not they are found in violation,” Hockenbury said. “We do not support Prop. 26 and the uncertainty it would provide for businesses and the local communities that rely on them.”
Tribal gaming supporters claim the PAGA – short for Private Attorney General Act – would not harm any cardroom that’s acting in accordance with state laws.
Besides retail sports betting and the PAGA provision, Prop 26 would also allow tribal casinos to offer roulette and dice-based table games at their casinos.
Dems Want to Send ‘Clear Message’ on Prop 27
In his statement made through the coalition, Rusty Hicks, chairman of the California Democratic Party, echoed Patterson’s comment about standing with the tribes, adding that Prop 27 threatens their sovereignty.
“Together, we can send a clear message to out-of-state corporations who seek to exploit California’s initiative process for their own gain,” Hicks said. “The California Democratic Party will connect with 10 million Democrats to defeat Prop 27 in November.”
California Democrats chose to remain neutral on Prop 26 because state chapters of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have come out in strong opposition to the measure. AFSCME represents local government workers across the state, and several communities have come out against Prop 26 because of language that could lead to lawsuits against cardroom casinos. Those casinos are often key revenue generators for smaller cities across the state.
Millions Raised for Campaigns
According to Cal-Access, the online campaign finance database run by the Secretary of State’s office, the four groups that have been established to either oppose or support the two sports betting propositions have raised $364.4 million toward their campaigns to see their side succeed on Nov. 8. That’s considered to be a record amount for an initiative in California.
The “Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming” has raised $106.7 million. That money has come from several tribal gaming entities in the state.
“Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support,” a pro-Prop 27 group funded by seven national sports betting operators, has received $150 million.
“Californians for Tribal Sovereignty” has received $66.2 million from various gaming tribes.
And “Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies,” an anti-Prop 26 campaign funded by cardroom casinos, has raised $41.5 million.
Cal-Access also notes that each of the groups have contributed $384,500 of their funds to either state or local political parties.
“Taxpayers” has given the most. It gave $200,000 to the state Democratic Party in May. It also gave $25,500 to the state GOP in two contributions, and both of those came in May.
“Californians for Solutions” has given $95,000. The California Republican Party received a $50,000 contribution in June, and the state Democratic Party received a $25,000 contribution on the same day. Back in February, the group gave $20,000 to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
“Californians for Tribal Sovereignty” has allocated $53,500, and all of that went to the state Democratic Party in three payments from February through May.
The “Coalition” has given $10,500. Of that, $3,500 went to the California Democratic Party in June, and another $2,500 went to the San Diego County GOP. The remaining funds, no more than $571.43 apiece, went to eight county-level Democratic Party chapters.
Casino.org has reached out for comment on those contributions, but no one has responded as of Friday evening.
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