NAACP Sues California Cardrooms for ‘Deceptive’ Sports Betting Ballot Statement

The NAACP has filed suit in California against a cardroom-backed ballot initiative on sports betting. The civil rights group claims the use of its name on the campaign is “deceptive and inappropriate.”

Rick Callender, president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP, above, accuses “No on 26” of “dishonest statements” that “mislead voters.” (Image: The Mercury News)

This is the battle for the hearts and minds of California voters, who are being asked to determine the shape of a future sports betting landscape at November’s general election.

“Proposition 26” would authorize land-based, in-person sports betting only, and only at the state’s multitudinous tribal casinos and four thoroughbred racetracks. Needless to say, it’s spearheaded by California’s politically powerful tribal gaming operators.

Competing measure “Proposition 27” would authorize statewide online sports betting and allow out-of-state commercial entities, such as DraftKings or FanDuel, to apply for licenses. It has the backing of – guess who? DraftKings and FanDuel – but also of California’s card rooms, with whom the tribal casino industry has for years squabbled over gaming rights.

The NAACP is standing with the tribes and has thrown its considerable weight behind Prop 26.

The trouble is that some of the people behind Prop 27 have been saying the NAACP supports them.

False Statement?

A lawsuit filed in the Sacramento Superior Court claims that a consultant from the campaign group “No on 26” hoodwinked the leader of the NCAAP’s Los Angeles branch, Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, into demonstrating support for Prop 27.

“No on 26” is funded by cardrooms the Commerce Club, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and others.

Hadley Hempstead’s statement has since appeared on pro-Prop 27 informational documents that could be sent to tens of millions of voters before the ballot.

The lawsuit seeks to ensure it isn’t.

“We oppose Prop 26 to protect young people from developing lifelong gambling addictions that often lead to ruined finances, relationships, even homelessness and crime,” reads the offending statement, from Hadley-Hempstead, who’s listed as a “retired teacher and President Emeritus of the Los Angeles NAACP Branch.”

‘Made-Up Title’

The lawsuit asserts that the statement is false and misleading because it gives the impression that the NAACP opposes Prop 26, whereas it has publicly endorsed the measure.

Furthermore, it notes that the Los Angeles NAACP Branch does not have the position of “President Emeritus” and that it is a “made-up title.”

We are outraged that the cardroom casinos and their “No on 26” campaign would deceptively use the NAACP name in its arguments despite our strong support,” said Rick Callender, president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP. “We are suing to have these dishonest statements removed from the ballot arguments, so it does not mislead voters.”

“NAACP is proud to stand with California Indian Tribes in strong support of Prop 26 to help preserve and further Indian self-reliance,” he added.

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