Sports betting will go before California voters with today’s ballot qualification of an initiative to bring sportsbooks to tribal casinos and select racetracks.
A total of 1,061,282 valid signatures were verified for the California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative via the California Secretary of State. That number exceeds the 997,139 signatures required to qualify the issue for the Nov. 2022 ballot, making the initiative eligible for a statewide vote.
Two counties last month were granted more time to verify signatures after a petition drive to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom created a work backlog for their county clerks. Those signatures — verified by Los Angeles and San Diego counties — helped to put the initiative over the top. The full check of names issued by the state on May 27 revealed 28.1 percent of the total number of valid signatures came from Los Angeles County and 10.6 percent from San Diego County.
Whether or not the sports betting initiative can make an earlier state ballot is up in the air. There has been some interest in moving the sports betting vote up to a likely 2021 gubernatorial recall ballot, but the chances of a move remain unclear.
How The California Sports Betting Initiative Will Work
California’s sports betting initiative will appear on the ballot as a combined initial constitutional amendment and state statute. That means both the state constitution and one or more state gambling laws would be changed to allow limited expanded gambling — including sports betting — with voter approval.
Should it pass, the initiative would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos and in-person sportsbooks at privately-operated racetracks in select counties in 2022. Bets placed at the tracks would be taxed at 10 percent. Sports betting on tribal lands, as well as roulette and dice games, would be allowed pending approval of an amended tribal-state gaming compact.
Types of sports bets allowed would include wagers on professional, college, and amateur sports and athletic events, with the exception of high school sports and games involving California college teams.
Who’s Behind the 2022 California Sports Betting Initiative?
The push to bring the initiative to the ballot is part of a nearly $12 million campaign organized by the tribal-organized Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering.
At least 18 California tribes are supporting the campaign, with five of those tribes among the campaign’s top donors. The ballot initiative itself was filed in Nov. 2019 by chairmen of four of the tribes supporting the statewide effort.
California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman Steve Stallings — an elected tribal council member of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians — said in 2019 that the initiative “allows sports wagering in a responsible manner and provides for transparency and strict regulation.” The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians is one of the tribes behind the campaign.
Opposition to the initiative has come from a group of California card rooms rallied under a political action committee called “No on the Gambling Power Grab.” The PAC had raised a little over $1 million to fight the initiative at last count, sources say.
In Dec. 2020, the initiative’s campaign announced that it had collected about 1.4 million signatures for verification. A deadline to verify the number of valid signatures was extended to March 2021 because of pandemic-related delays, with the last extension granted on April 22.