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Friday, June 24, 2022

Casino sports betting initiative will put cardroom out of business, coalition says

A coalition of Southern California cities is opposing a sports betting ballot initiative they claim will lead to excessive litigation against cardrooms, potentially shutting them down, effectively killing 32,000 jobs and wiping out $1.6 billion in annual salaries.

The initiative – supported by a number of businesses and public safety, social justice and community groups and tribes as well as the Pechanga Resort Casino – has no official name, but is known as the Tribal Sports Gambling Act. It will allow games 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 Casino a near-monopoly on all gaming in California – adding exclusivity on roulette, craps and sports wagering to their current monopoly on slot machines.

They argue that it would also expand the Private Attorney General Act, allowing tribal casinos to employ private trial attorneys, effectively changing the role of the state attorney general to prosecute cardrooms and potentially This would put them out of business over costly litigation.

If the initiative gains voter approval in November, they say the Los Angeles area loses at least $71.1 million in general-fund tax revenue that supports public health and homeless services and seniors programs.

Fears are ‘misunderstood’

The Anti-Initiative Coalition — including representatives from Commerce, Compton, Hawaiian Gardens and Bell Gardens — held a news conference outside the Commerce Senior Citizen Center on Thursday, May 19, to voice their concerns.

Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming spokeswoman Cathy Fairbanks said fears about the initiative were misunderstood.

“Our measure only ensures that existing laws prohibiting illegal gambling are being followed,” she said. “Law-abiding cardrooms have nothing to worry about — nor do their employees.”

Bell Gardens councilwoman Alejandra Cortez said the Bicycle Hotel and Casino generates about 46% of the city’s general-fund revenue, or $15 million. If the venue was forced to close due to a new ballot initiative and litigation from area casinos, the impact would be catastrophic, she said. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

She cited a $3.1 million settlement in 2019 against The Garden Casino in Hawaii as an example. Casinos were fined for misleading gambling regulators and violating the Bank Secrecy Act, a federal law intended to combat money laundering.

“In the gaming world, expect to pay the price if you fail to play by the rules,” California Attorney General Javier Becerra said at the time.

The partnership, which operates the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, agreed late last year to a similar settlement of $500,000 to settle an investigation into alleged violations of the Anti-Money Laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act.

“The only cardroom casinos at risk of law enforcement are those that repeatedly violate California gaming laws,” Fairbanks said.

fear of loss of revenue

Opponents of the Pechanga Initiative still fear a tribal casino monopoly on gaming and fighting an increase in PAGA litigation could prove too costly and result in cardroom closures.

Bell Gardens councilwoman Alejandra Cortez said the Bicycle Hotel and Casino generates about 46% of the city’s general-fund revenue, or $15 million. He said the impact would be disastrous if the venue was forced to close.

“We got a preview of what it 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 resulted in a loss of about $10 million.”

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

According to City Councilman Jesse Alvarado, the Hawaiian Park will suffer even more damage.

“The Garden Casino, which has operated in the City of Hawaiian Gardens for the past 22 years, is a valued partner to our entire community – providing more than 68% of our city’s total general fund revenue,” Alvarado said in a statement.

He said the money played a key role in the city’s ability to fight crime and take back key issues of gang control.

“If the Qualified Aboriginal Gaming Initiative becomes law, it will devastate our community,” Alvarado said.

Commerce Mayor Orlia Rebolo said that Commerce Casino generates about 46% of her city’s annual revenue, and has never been accused of money laundering.

“They have always been transparent, so we have never had to deal with these kinds of issues,” she said. “I’m proud of how the casino is managed.”

World Nation News Desk
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