California bet initiative a long process

Nov 20, 2019 3:02 AM

When word came last week that an initiative was going to be placed on the ballot next November to vote on having legalized sports betting in the state of California, you could feel the excitement and anticipation, not just in the Golden State, but across the entire nation.

Given the state’s political machinations, who would’ve thought anyone could agree on anything, much less something involving gambling?

Yet here we are. The process is underway. Eighteen Native American tribes are in agreement that people should be able to make a three-team parlay at one of their casinos rather than go to Las Vegas or Reno. The fact the tribes agreed on something this big is a minor miracle in itself.

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But before you start planning a visit to a sportsbook in California, you might want to pump the brakes just a tad. This is going to take a while. And even if the voters approve sports betting in 2020, it’s not going to become reality right away.

Between now and next November, this initiative drafted by the tribes will likely undergo a revision or three. At first glance, they probably need to rethink how they want to handle mobile sports betting.

The way it is explained, yes, you’ll be able to bet with your phone in California. But you’ll have to be on the sovereign land of one of the tribes and use their app in order to do so.

It appears to be somewhat shortsighted. I understand the idea is to drive traffic to the casino and the fact the initiative allows for phone betting puts it miles ahead of New York, which is living in the 1970s when it comes to sports betting when it launched earlier this year.

There could be issues with the compacts the tribes have with the state which would preclude phone betting from being used beyond the tribe’s lands. Hopefully, they can work through that and not have to renegotiate the compacts in order to allow phone betting anywhere in the state.

But I like the fact the tribes included the race tracks and the counties that have horse racing to partner with them in a sports betting endeavor. It makes sense to go to Del Mar and be able to bet a baseball game in August or make a football bet at Golden Gate Fields in October.

Will it happen? We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the card rooms in California are none too happy over this. They’re on the outside looking in and you know they want to be part of the action. After all, if the projections regarding revenue are even remotely accurate, we’re looking at a minimum of $1.2 billion from sports betting with the high side projecting $2.5 billion.

That’s a lot of cheddar. And if I’m a Nevada sportsbook, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this potential California “gold rush.” If sports betting becomes a reality to Nevada’s next-door neighbor, it will impact the Silver State. How much, who knows? But trust me, it will hurt the Nevada books.

Here’s what sports betting in California will also do — it will create jobs for thousands of people, create competition within the industry for providing services to the casinos and phone betting and perhaps change how professional and collegiate teams look at revenue.

And while California proceeds with its ballot initiative, Florida is also moving forward with its own plan to have sports betting. The senate has a bill that would bring sports betting to the Sunshine State by next Oct. 1 with the Florida Lottery having oversight.

But unlike in California, where the Native American tribes are in lockstep and willing to work through the political process, in Florida, the Seminole tribe appears to be shut out in terms of input and participation.

That could be a problem for Florida going forward with its sports betting plans. Apparently, there’s a conflict between the Seminoles and the state over renegotiating the compact between the two entities, much like what Oklahoma is going through, and that could be an issue in this current attempt to bring sports betting to Florida.

As for California, it has its own set of problems with regard to sports betting, the biggest being that nothing gets done quickly and that getting so many different factions to agree this is good for everyone is going to be a daunting task.

The optimist in me says they’ll find a way, and we’ll see legalized sports betting in California in the near future. The pessimist in me wants to lay 7-5 this doesn’t happen anytime soon.

Any takers?

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