SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Last spring there were four separate efforts to get
initiatives onto the November ballot from a host of competing interests.
Only two managed to get the required signatures to qualify for the state
ballot and now the backers of one of those initiatives are backing out.
After a costly advertising campaign, reported at around $28 million,
backers of Proposition 68 decided to drop their efforts to actively
campaign for the initiative because of bleak poll numbers. Proposition 68
sought to force California gaming tribes to cough up about a quarter of
their revenue to the state or face competition from a select group of horse
race tracks and card rooms.
A Field Poll, which tracks California politics, taken in late September and
early October showed California voters opposed Proposition 68 by a 59
percent to 20 percent margin, with the remainder undecided.
These numbers practically mirror previous numbers taken in August which
showed a similar percentage of California voters opposing the initiative.
"The money that they [the backers] spent didn't seem to have an effect on
how it was perceived," said Mark DiCamillo, the Field Poll director.
All in all, the select racetracks and card clubs, listed in the language of
the initiative, would have been allowed to collectively operate more than
30,000 machines and would have given almost a third of their revenue to
local governments. Some critics of the initiative complained that that
money would only benefit a few communities and not the state.
However, that was only the tip of the iceberg in regard to opposition
complaints regarding Proposition 68. Among other criticisms were that it
would expand gaming beyond tribal properties and into the state. Needless
to say, the California gaming tribes opposed this measure because of
increased competition from other gaming sources.
The now defunct initiative, which will still appear on the November ballot,
also led to an advertising war between the race tracks/card clubs and the
tribes that blanketed the Golden State's airwaves. In fact, though its
backers had pulled out five days earlier, as of Oct. 11 advertisements were
still being run favoring the initiative because they had been purchased in
Though Proposition 68 initially had some prominent backers, including Los
Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas
the wild card in the fight was whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would
also throw his mighty political weight behind the measure.
In the end, the governor cut a deal with several tribes who have signed
gaming agreements with him. During a signing ceremony with five tribes for
the first round of compacts late June Schwarzenegger came out publicly
against Proposition 68. Tribes immediately capitalized on the popular
governor's opposition and trumpeted it in subsequent anti-Proposition 68
In a press release in reaction to the news of backers pulling away from the
measure, Schwarzenegger did not mince words. "The voters saw through this
sham initiative and it had no chance of passing."
Greg Larsen, a Yes on 68 campaign consultant, blamed the initiative's
problems in the field of public perception on a number of things. He
claimed his group could not keep up fiscally with opponents and that the
supposedly neutral language composed in the California Attorney General's
office that was printed onto the ballots was weighted against the
"There was no reference [in the ballot language] to fair share," said
Larsen in reference to the catchphrase that proponents of the initiative
had been using in favor of the initiative.
Many of the backers of Proposition 68 had previously sued the state over
the legality of allowing gaming only on Indian reservations claiming that
it was a de-facto monopoly. Though they had failed in their previous
attempts at litigation, Larsen said that the fight is far from over.
It'll be on the ballot again [in the future] and we'll be in the courtroom
again," said Larsen.
The withdrawal of backers from Proposition 68 now leaves Proposition 70 as
the only Indian gaming-related initiative on the fall ballot. Proposition
70 was largely the creation of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
in Palm Springs.
Essentially, Proposition 70 would force tribes to pay the corporate rate of
8.85 percent of their earnings to the state in exchange for being allowed
to expand their operations as much as the market would allow them to.
Backers of this initiative have spent more than $21 million and though it
has been a loser thus far in the polls, it has been much closer than
Proposition 68. According to the Field Poll 43 percent of voters said that
they would not support the measure. The numbers were a little down for
Proposition 70 from August in which only 40 percent of voters opposed the
bill. The first poll showed 33 percent in support and the latest shows a
small slip to 32 percent.