California Approves 2nd Sports Betting Ballot Question; What Happens if Both Pass?

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California voters will have two very different sports betting referendum questions to consider when they go to the polls in November. 

The Secretary of State announced Monday that supporters of the online sports betting measure, officially known as the Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support, had gathered enough certified signatures for the initiative to appear on the ballot. 

The proposal, which is backed by major sportsbook operators including DraftKings and FanDuel, would allow for mobile sports betting throughout the state – not just in-person betting at tribal casinos. 

Backers announced last month they had collected more than 1.5 million signatures. California officials had until Thursday, June 30 to approve them. 

Supporters argue the money raised – 85% of tax revenue would go toward combating homelessness and mental health issues – is desperately needed. 

California needs to think big if we are going to be serious about tackling homelessness,” Elise Buik, president & CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Tribes have come out against it. They have pledged to spend millions opposing the measure because they fear it would infringe on their rights to run gambling operations in the state. 

A Different Sports Betting Question Also on Ballot

The sportsbook-backed initiative is not the only one related to sports betting slated to be put before voters in the fall. 

A separate measure, the California Legalize Sports Betting On American Indian Lands Initiative, was approved by state officials in 2021 to appear on the ballot for the next general election.  

This measure would allow for sports betting on tribal lands only. Advocates argue in-person betting is safer, especially for such a large population. 

“Requiring individuals to be physically present in-person to place bets is the safest and most responsible way for California to legalize sports wagering,” Bill Young, president of the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, said in a statement released by backers

“It is the best way to prevent underage gambling and ensure people are not placing bets illegally, and it provides funding for enforcement against illegal gambling and problem gambling programs.”

Many who support this initiative are strongly opposed to the sportsbook-backed proposal.  

“Our measure represents a responsible, incremental approach to allowing sports wagering in California without the risks of opening up every connected device to online gambling,” said Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Kahn released his statement shortly after the Secretary of State announced the signature approval for the dueling proposal.

What Happens If Both Proposals Prevail?

Short answer: The sides will likely wind up in court.

Longer answer: It depends on who has more votes and what each side wants to do to move forward. 

Calmatters.org, a website that tracks California politics, reported earlier this month that backers of the sportsbook option do not see the two questions as conflicting. 

The same can not be said for the backers of the tribal initiative. 

Ian Imrich, a California attorney who specializes in sports gaming law, told the outlet the tribes could contest the outcome if they prevail with more votes but the sportsbook-backed option still passes. 

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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