California Tribes Get Extension For Sports Betting on 2022 Ballot

California Tribes Get Extension For Sports Betting on 2022 Ballot
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A coalition of California tribes has been given an extension to attempt to acquire enough signatures to get its sports betting measure on the 2022 election ballot.

California Superior Court Judge James Arguelles gave the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering until Oct. 12 to submit signatures in a tentative ruling filed Wednesday that he made official during a hearing on Thursday. Arguelles also retained jurisdiction in the case and said he was willing to listen if the state or tribes sought more time to verify signatures.

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”Between May 7 and June 18, Petitioners gathered signatures at approximately 10 percent their prior rate and notwithstanding their diligent efforts,” the judge wrote in the ruling. “The court finds that the rate reduction is the result of government restrictions responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“To make Petitioners whole, the court will order a further extension equal to 90 percent of the same time period, or 35 additional days. This further extension moves the deadline to submit signatures to October 12, 2020.”

State Attorney General Alex Padilla, the defendant in the tribes’ lawsuit, did not offer an opposition brief to the extension, according to the filing.

"We appreciate the Court’s consideration and recognition of these extraordinary circumstances,” Jacob Mejia, spokesman for the coalition, said in an email to on Thursday. “We are also pleased that the Court has retained jurisdiction, which allows us to go back to the judge in case of other shutdowns."

2022 Deadline Was Fast Approaching

The deadline for the measure to get on the 2022 ballot was July 20, but because of the inability to acquire signatures during the coronavirus pandemic, the tribes sought an extension on June 9. The tribes tried to gain enough signatures to be on the November 2020 ballot, but again, because of the state's stay-at-home order, could not meet the deadline of June 25 for that.

In Wednesday’s court filing, the tribes said that between Jan. 21 and mid-March they had reached approximately 971,000 signatures in support of their initiative, spending $7 million. About 1 million signatures are needed to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and for verification reasons at least another 500,000 are needed.

On March 16, several counties in the Bay Area ordered residents to shelter in place, and three days later the state did the same. “Consequently, the in-person signature gathering in which Petitioners were engaged came to a halt,” they said in the filing.

If the tribes receive the required signatures and the sports betting measure is approved by voters in 2022, the first sports bet would not be placed until 2023. The proposal by the tribes would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos but does not include mobile or online sports betting.

State lawmakers could try to approve legislation to get their own sports betting measure on the 2022 ballot as well.

Lawmakers Tried To Get On November Ballot

State Sen. Bill Dodd pulled a constitutional amendment, SCA 6, from being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 23. The legislation by Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray was met by opposition from California tribes at every hearing since it was introduced in May.

Recent amendments by Dodd to SCA 6, including a phased-in start to mobile and online sports betting, stronger rules for card rooms and inclusion of funds for fairs and non-gaming tribes in the state, attempted to address concerns raised by the tribes in previous Senate committee hearings.

“Given the deadlines for getting a measure on the November ballot and the impact of Covid-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in, we were not able to get the bill across the finish line this year,” Dodd said in a news release. “It remains important that we lift this widespread practice out of the shadows to make it safer and to generate money for the people of California. I will continue to be engaged in the issue as we work toward 2022.”

Dodd and Gray introduced the amendment to help the state make up for its expected $54 billion budget shortfall because of the coronavirus.

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