Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez speaks at a press conference Thursday addressing an initiative on the November ballot that would allow for sports gambling in tribal casinos. Photo by Ben Hensley

published on June 16, 2022 - 5:01 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

Representatives from Fresno, Clovis and Tulare County gathered in front of Fresno City Hall Thursday to outline what they say are the economic dangers of the Eligible Tribal Gaming Initiative set for the November ballot.

Local officials, including Fresno Councilmembers Luis Chavez and Mike Karbassi, were joined by representatives from Clovis and Tulare County. Also present was Clint Oliver, CEO of the Central Valley Business Federation, as they outlined potential pitfalls should the initiative pass, including a possible loss of over a million dollars in economic activity.

The measure threatens to reduce funding from tax revenue that is brought in through local card rooms such as Club One Casino by giving tribal gaming casinos a near exclusive right to all roulette, craps and sports wagering, they said.

“The qualified tribal gaming measure would be a disaster for the Central Valley,” said Fresno Councilmember Michael Karbassi. “There are better ways for our state to legalize sports betting without directly harming the residents of the Central Valley.”

Other measures such as Initiative 21-0039, and Initiative 21-0017 also aim to legalize sports gambling, but neither contain loopholes that bypass judiciary regulation processes currently in place, opponents say. Neither initiative is currently on the November ballot, although Initiative 21-0017 may appear on the ballot as a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute.

“This is empowering more lawsuits and takes away the ability of counties and cities to have discretionary dollars to provide much needed services and infrastructure within our communities,” said Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel.

The potential for lawsuits paired with the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic leads many community leaders to believe that should this measure pass, many cardrooms would go out of business, taking with them millions of dollars in tax revenue used to provide basic infrastructure improvements and maintenance.

Initiatives 21-0039 and 21-0017 do not include a Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) provision that allows the bypassing of the Attorney General’s role in lawsuits against non-tribal competitors, they said.

“At the end of the day, the Central Valley needs government policies and initiatives that make it easier for Californians to live and work by creating jobs and economic opportunity,” Chavez said. “The Eligible Tribal Gaming Initiative does the opposite by threatening to take away over one million in tax revenue for local programs and services.”

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