An initiative that would allow California racetracks to offer casino gaming, including slot machines, has been filed with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer by a lobbying group that has mounted a signature-gathering campaign in an effort to get it on the November 2002 ballot. The DeVille Group, a political consulting consortium based in Palm Springs filed the Gaming Control Act initiative in early October. The initiative would give racetracks and other gambling establishments in the state that already hold a gambling license a "non-restrictive license" that would immediately allow for an unlimited number of slot machines and casino gaming.
Racing officials in California said they were aware of the initiative but have not been contacted by the DeVille Group for input. Rick Baedeker, senior vice president of Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California, that has also held a card club since 1994, said casino gambling would be welcomed at the track.
"We haven�t been approached, but a casino would fit in very nicely," Baedeker said. "California will be at a real disadvantage in the future when New York gets (alternative gambling) and enhanced purses from it. We would love to have it, but we�re in a state where it is specifically prohibited."
The initiative has specific clauses that would help the Thoroughbred industry in the state, including keeping intact the California breeders� reward of 10% of the first-place purse won by California-breds in the state. Additionally, racetracks with a license to provide slot machines would have its "gross revenue gaming tax," which is capped at 5% of total handle for all races, reduced by 2% with the additional funds earmarked for capital improvements.
The California Horse Racing Board would also be dissolved on or after November 6, 2002 in favor of the California Gaming Commission, which would take over all powers and jurisdictions for all gaming in the state.
"It wouldn�t make sense to have one agency for racing at a racetrack, one for boxing, one for a casino�its hard to regulate it and people slip through the cracks as far as a criminal element," Marlar said.
The initiative is being championed by the DeVille Group as legislation that would "level the playing field" of gambling establishments in the state. Carl Marlar, president of the DeVille Group, said the initiative would be in line with a pending lawsuit against Native American casinos by card clubs and charity organizations in the state.
"Card clubs and charities are already suing saying it�s illegal to grant a (gambling) monopoly to Indian tribes�just like it would be illegal if all of a sudden California said only Native American tribes could own Ford dealerships," Marlar said. "This basically would allow limited gaming by people that are already competing with Native American tribes."
The DeVille Group would need to collect 600,000 verified signatures of registered voters to have the initiative placed on the November 5 ballot.�Victor Ryan