Two Sports Betting Options Appear Headed For California Ballot In November

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California voters will likely have two opportunities to approve sports betting – one mobile and one retail – in November. 

A coalition of sportsbook operators announced Wednesday they have gathered enough signatures to qualify for the next general election. The group, led by DraftKings and FanDuel, wants voters to approve mobile sports betting.

The group presented the Office of the Secretary of State with more than 1.6 million signatures. California officials have until the end of June to verify at least 997,139 of them. As of this Thursday publication, the office has not acknowledged receipt of the signatures where it lists pending petitions. 

A previous measure, supported by the state’s tribal interests to allow for retail-only sports betting, already received approval to be placed on the 2022 ballot in May 2021

As the most populous state in the country, California is considered the holy grail for sports betting advocates because of the windfall it would bring.

The sportsbook-backed measure, formally known as Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support, would allow for sports betting throughout the state – not just at tribal casinos.  

Revenue from sports betting would go toward combatting homelessness and mental health issues. 

“Homelessness service providers, like myself and others, are here with you today to tell you providing an ongoing permanent revenue source is critical for California if we are going to solve and create long-term solutions needed to end homelessness,” Quentin Mecke, an advocate with a San Francisco-based homeless organization, told ABC-7

Tribal Proposal Excludes Mobile Sports Betting

Under existing state law, casinos in California fall exclusively under the purview of tribal interests. There is no legalized sports betting, and if Californians want to wager on the Los Angeles Rams or San Francisco Giants they have to travel to Nevada or Arizona

The tribal proposal, which was verified last year, allows for retail-only sports betting at the state’s casinos and select race tracks. Revenue from wagers placed at race tracks would be taxed at 10%. 

Sports betting on tribal lands, as well as roulette and dice games, would need to get approval from the Department of Interior through a revised tribal compact, but that would be a formality if approved by voters. 

The measure does not allow for wagers on in-state college teams, but otherwise approves collegiate sports bets. 

Supporters of this measure came out swinging Wednesday and vowed to defeat the new one. Tribes are keen on keeping their monopoly on gambling within the state.

“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,” Cody Martinez, chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, said in a statement.

 “We will run a vigorous campaign against this measure and are confident the voters will see through the deceptive promises being made by these out-of-state gambling corporations.”

David Leonhardi, president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County, also supports the tribal measure and opposes the new one.

“Online and mobile gambling are especially attractive to youth, and the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition lacks critical safeguards to prevent underage gambling, exposing our kids to increased risks of addiction and problem gambling,” he said.

Mobile Sports Betting Proposal Aids Mental Health

Advocates of the sportsbook-backed initiative stress their measure will do more for the greater good of all Californians and not just the tribes. 

Revenue from mobile sports betting could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, according to state analysts.  The initiative divides revenue between aid for homeless and mental health issues (85%), with 15% going to tribes not involved in sports betting. 

Helping the state combat the growing and persistent problem of homelessness is something advocates hope will sway voters.

“This is the state’s No. 1 need, its greatest humanitarian challenge, and right now there is no permanent revenue source for housing and the services required to help elevator people out of homelessness,” Nathan Click, a spokesman for the group, told USA Today.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey 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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