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California sports betting faces a new live-or-die deadline of May 26, with a Sacramento judge giving two of the state’s largest counties more time to verify signatures that could put the initiative on the Nov. 2022 ballot. 

That gives Los Angeles and San Diego counties 16 more days to review and verify petition signatures for the initiative, which could legalize sports betting at certain licensed racetracks and allow tribal sports betting plans to proceed under a combined constitutional amendment and state statute ballot initiative next year. 

Los Angeles and San Diego counties’ registrars were expected to have the signatures verified by April 22, but were granted more time after citing ongoing efforts to verify signatures on a petition to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom plus two initiative petitions — including sports betting — as cause for delay. 

The campaign leading the initiative reported that it had collected about 1.4 million petition signatures as of Dec. 14, 2020. Counties were notified on March 10, 2021 that they had until April 22 to validate the signatures, until the May 26 extension. 

What’s Next For California Sports Betting?

The California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative would allow in-person sports betting to launch at privately-owned horse racetracks in four counties in California late next year, according to the Secretary of State’s website. Sports betting at tribal casinos could move ahead under the initiative after approval of an amended tribal-state gaming compact.

But counties must first verify every initiative petition signature submitted to them by May 26 for the issue to qualify for the ballot. 

According to the California Secretary of State, the ballot initiative will be eligible for the ballot if the number of valid signatures totals at least 997,139. Only 442,495 signatures had been validated as of April 29, according to the California Secretary of State. 

Brief History Of California Sports Betting

Attempts to legalize sports betting in California at the state legislative level in 2016 and 2017 failed after sports betting proponents didn’t muster up enough support for passage.

Next up was a ballot initiative by a group called Californians for Sports Betting that would have allowed a competitive sports betting market in the state. That effort was scuttled by the state’s tribes — a formidable political force in the Golden State. 

The 2022 initiative would appear on the ballot as a combined initial constitutional amendment and state statute. Voter approval would change the state constitution and one or more state gambling-related laws. 

Besides tribal casinos, legal gambling in California includes card clubs, charitable gaming, the state lottery, and pari-mutuel horse race betting.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region 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, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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