California Gives Go-Ahead to Latest Sports Betting Petition Drive

A second tribal-led petition drive to bring sports betting to California has been given the go-ahead by the state’s top election official. 

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber cleared the proposed ballot initiative for circulation on Jan. 11, the same day the petition was green-lighted by the California Attorney General’s Office. Now, organizers have until July 11, 2022 to gather the 997,139 verified voter signatures needed to get the proposal – called “The Age-Verified Tribal Online And In-Person Sports Wagering Regulatory Act” – on the ballot. 

If it makes the cut, California voters this fall could amend their state constitution to allow recognized tribes to conduct retail sports betting and statewide online sports betting through servers located on tribal land. 

Sports betting could launch as soon as Sept. 1, 2023 with the change, pending final approval of amended gaming compacts by the US Department of the Interior. 

Another Tribal-Led Sports Betting Proposal Now Eligible For 2022 Ballot

This is the fourth proposed sports betting ballot initiative and the second tribal-led sports betting initiative proposed for the Nov. 2022 California general election ballot. 

The first tribal-led sports betting initiative proposed for statewide ballot this fall in the Golden State is the “California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative,” which would legalize retail sportsbooks, roulette, and dice games at tribal casinos, with federal approval. It would also allow retail sports betting at privately-owned racetracks in four California counties.

Petition signatures required to put the proposal on the ballot were certified by the Secretary of State in May 2021. Formal ballot qualification of the initiative is expected soon.

But the proposed initiative has been met with opposition from a coalition of card rooms, all claiming table game language violates the  “single-subject rule”  for amendments to the state constitution. 

The card rooms have asked the state Supreme Court to block the request, although the court has yet to take action. It is still uncertain if the court will intervene. 

Card Rooms And Tribes At Loggerheads

Card rooms and mayors have a competing initiative to allow card rooms and tribal casinos to offer retail and online sports betting , plus new card games and tile games, like mahjong.

Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda says the initiative has “room for everybody” by allowing card rooms and casinos to offer sports betting. 

“We don’t exclude the tribes, we don’t exclude the others,” Cerda told Fox 40 News on Jan. 30. “Our initiative, at the end of the day, is going back to the people of California, the people who need it the most,” she added.

Organizers of the card room proposal have until April 18 of this year to gather enough signatures to make it on the ballot. 

Big-Name Sportsbook Proposal Also In The Running 

Big-name national sportsbooks DraftKings and FanDuel are behind another proposed ballot initiative — this one to legalize online sports betting statewide through agreements with tribal casinos and their partners.

Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the sportsbook initiative, spoke with Fox 40 News about the proposal and why it could be the best of the bunch. 

“There’s an illegal, offshore online sports betting market that Californians spend billions of dollars each year on. These are sites based in Croatia, Latvia. They don’t offer any consumer protections and they don’t offer age verification,” the station quoted Click as saying. 

According to the California Secretary of State, organizers of the sportsbook initiative had gathered 25 percent of the required number of signatures as of Jan. 18. The deadline to gather signatures is May 3, 2022. 

What’s Next In The Race To Legalize California Sports Betting? 

Each of the four proposed initiatives require state certification of at least 997,139 valid voter signatures to be ballot eligible. It’s a high bar – but not impossible to reach. 

One has already met the test.

That raises the question of what happens if all four proposals qualify for the ballot this year. The short answer is the most “yes” votes win. 

“Experts say it could all come down to who gets the most votes,” Fox 40 reported on Jan. 30. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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