Third California Sports Betting Initiative To Be Filed Today

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What could be the fiercest California sports betting initiative yet is expected to be filed today, with top-name sportsbooks behind the $100 million online sportsbook campaign. 

The “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act”  is slated for filing with the state’s Attorney General with support from DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, and other top names. The plan is to gather enough signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot as early as Nov. 2022. 

This is the third sports betting initiative to make news in California this year. A tribal-led ballot initiative to allow sportsbooks at tribal casinos and select racetracks, pending approval of a tribal-state gaming compact, became eligible for the 2022 ballot last May. Another initiative, filed this month, is being led by a coalition of cities. 

Backers of the sportsbook-led initiative say it will be “complementary” to the tribal-led initiative since online sportsbooks must partner with a California tribe under the latest proposal.  Tribes would also receive a cut of revenue generated by the proposal which campaign organizers say is “dedicated to uplifting Tribal communities.” 

Could A Third Initiative Beat Out The Other Two? 

It’s uncertain how the tribes see a third challenger, however — especially one favored by the biggest sportsbooks in the industry. 

One issue is whether a ballot measure that one campaign calls “complimentary” is actually a competing proposal. If the State of California finds that two (or more) proposals conflict, then the one with the most “yes” votes wins. That’s been the case for at least 30 years under California case law. 

Not that the sportsbook-led effort will win, but it’s likely. Well-funded petition drives usually do better than those with less funding, and the sportsbooks have lots of money. Politico reported today that the sportsbook-led drive intends to spend around $100 million, compared to around $12 million spent by the tribes for their initiatives. 

The cities, so far, have spent far less — about half a million dollars, per some reports.

What’s Next For The Latest Initiative? 

Organizers of the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” plan to file their proposed ballot measure with the state’s Attorney General today. That is the first step required to circulate a petition that could get the measure before voters. 

At least 997,139 valid signatures will be required to qualify the initiative since it would expand gaming. Any sports betting initiative requires at least that number of valid signatures to qualify for the ballot under California law. 

Verification of signatures is handled by county election officials. If there are enough valid signatures, the Secretary of State will either qualify the initiative for the ballot or not. Qualified ballots would then go before the voters. 

All three initiatives are apparently vying for a place on the Nov. 2022 ballot, although the actual timeline depends on state policy, how long it takes to circulate a petition, and possibly other factors. So everything is tentative at this point. 

Per the Secretary of State: “(Factors) such as amending the proposed initiative measure before circulation or the length of time for circulation, will affect the time it takes to complete the process.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

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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