Timing an Issue for California Sports Gambling Initiatives in 2024

The clock is ticking in California for citizen-led sports betting initiatives to make the statewide general election ballot in 2024.

Monday was the California Secretary of State’s suggested deadline to submit to the Attorney General any proposed initiative that hopes to qualify for the Nov. 5, 2024 ballot by the “full check” method (requiring 100 percent verification of petition signatures). Meeting that deadline would give the Attorney General about two months – until Sept. 7 – to prepare an official title and summary required to circulate an initiative petition, while allowing time for each signature to be checked if necessary.

So far, however, no California sports betting initiatives that could be declared eligible for the 2024 general election have been posted to the Attorney General’s website.

Aug. 22 is the next suggested deadline for 2024 initiatives to be submitted to the Attorney General. That deadline applies to initiatives that hope to qualify for the ballot using the “random check” method, or sampling of verified signatures — the method that most initiatives use.

A random sample will suffice if the number of valid petition signatures exceeds the threshold needed to qualify for the ballot (110 percent of the total number of signatures). However, a random sample can easily turn into a full check (which takes another 30 days) if the sample shows the number of valid signatures falls between 95 percent and 110 percent. Any delay can make it difficult to qualify for the ballot.

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, the deadline to qualify for the ballot falls at least 131 days before the general election, or around June 27, 2024 for next year’s general election.

Two California initiatives (one led by tribal nations, the other by sportsbooks) faced off at the polls last year — both losing by a landslide.

Deadlines Help Track Intent of Tribes, Sportsbooks

There has been no word from tribes or sportsbooks that brought sports betting initiatives to California’s polls last November about whether they plan to try again in 2024. Initiative qualification deadlines suggested by the California Secretary of State may be a good way to track their intent.

Per those deadlines, the last day for an initiative to qualify for California’s Nov. 2024 ballot is June 27, 2024.

Any initiative still requiring a full-check signature verification as of that date “would not be eligible for the November 5, 2024, General Election ballot” due to time constraints, according to suggested deadlines on the Secretary of State’s website. Random checks can happen more quickly.

Sources tell Gaming Today that September (in the year before the general election) is “widely considered the last moment” to file an initiative with the Attorney General. But “there’s not been a lot of chatter from many of the stakeholders around possible 2024 initiatives,” they said.

What’s Next for California Sports Betting?

Groups behind last year’s defeated California sports betting initiatives told the Associated Press last fall that “they were reevaluating how to bring sports gambling to the Golden State.” They also said that they “wouldn’t discuss whether they would seek a legislative path or appeal directly to voters again.”

The keyword appears to be “reevaluating.”

The sportsbook-led Prop 27 campaign said in a statement after last year’s defeat that the 2022 election battle “underscored our resolve to see California follow more than half the country in legalizing safe and responsible online sports betting.”

Tribes behind Prop 26 seem just as determined.

At the Western Indian Gaming Conference in February, James Siva, Vice Chair of the California National Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) Chairman and Morongo Band of Mission Indians, said in his State of the Tribal Nations Speech that California tribes are “by far the better entities to offer sports wagering in California.”

“We have a proven track record of operating well-run and well-regulated gaming establishments,” Siva said, adding that the tribes “are inherently rooted in California.”

“We were here before this land was known as California, we are still here now, and we will continue to be here moving into the future. This reality provides a sense of stability and grounding for all Californians,” Siva said in his speech.

“The defeat of Proposition 27 showed our strength and sent a message that our industry remains strong. It is strong because we have worked hard to earn the trust of the people of California as good stewards of the gaming industry in this state.

“We need a similar unity of purpose to ward off threats that negatively impact us all,” said Siva.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

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

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