California Sports Betting Gathers Enough Signatures for November Ballot
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: The California State flag flies outside City Hall, in Los Angeles, California.
The question of legal sports betting in California, and how limited it might be, will be left up to voters, as multiple ballot initiatives have reached enough unverified signatures for the November ballot.
At least two ballot initiatives gathered the 1 million signatures needed to appear on the electoral ballot, by Tuesday's deadline. Californians will likely choose between the following:
- Retail sports betting limited to in-person bets at tribal casinos
- Statewide online sports betting through partnerships between commercial operators and tribes
Typically in California, if two competing measures receive a majority of "yes" votes, the one with the most supersedes the other.
"Ours includes language that says both can pass concurrently if they get over 50% Yes," said Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the commercial campaign.
Voters can vote "no" on both, and if both questions get more than 50% no's, there will be no sports betting.
The commercial measure mandates that online betting starts by August 29, 2023.
Both Have Support, Depending on Who You Ask
Along with Penn National Gaming, which operates Barstool Sportsbook, and WynnBet, they've funded the campaign with over $100 million.
But if you ask the tribes backing the other measure, online sports betting doesn't have enough support. Less than 50% of Californians support it according to a separate poll from The Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming.
They've vowed to run a "vigorous campaign" against the online measure.
“The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition would legalize online and mobile sports gambling – turning virtually every cell phone, laptop, tablet and gaming console into a gambling device, increasing the risks of underage and problem gambling,” said Cody Martinez, tribal chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
Millions of dollars, 85% of revenue from online sports betting taxes, would go towards fighting homelessness, mental health and addiction in California. The sports betting model would impose license and regulation requirements on tribes, which would have to partner with commercial companies to offer online sports betting. Tribes would receive the other
A bipartisan coalition of local mayors and activists have thrown their support.
“This ballot measure would give cities like Fresno a guaranteed funding source to address homelessness,” Fresno mayor Jerry Dyer said. “To truly solve this critical issue and give those most vulnerable among us the housing, mental health and addiction treatment they need, there must be an ongoing revenue stream. This initiative would do just that.”
"Nearly half of the states in the nation have safely and responsibly legalized online sports betting," said Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness San Diego. These states are using this revenue to solve big challenges. California should be next."
Online sports betting is illegal in only 10 of the 34 states to legalize sports betting since the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on the industry.
Less Confusion for Californians
Like in many other states, legalizing sports betting in California requires a conditional amendment, which can only be done through voter referendum.
Earlier this year it looked like the November ballot could feature up to four different competing sports betting measures.
A third initiative would also legalize online sports betting, but only through three of the state's tribal casinos. It has yet to qualify, and likely won't by Tuesday's deadline, given previous signature counts.
The fourth initiative, backed by the state's cardrooms did not meet a previous threshold and is now out of the picture.
That should quell some of the concerns around confusing Californians with so many options, which might have killed sports betting altogether.
With a population roughly twice the size of New York, which quickly became the top sports betting state in the country, California is considered the crown jewel of the market.