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California Sports Betting Legislation Hits a Major Obstacle

September 20, 2022

For several years now, California’s Indian Tribes and U.S. corporate retail/online gambling concerns have been trying to get sports betting legislation on the California ballot. Earlier this year it looked like two separate ballots might actually make it on the ballots for the November 2022 or the November 2024 election cycles. Now, it appears as though at least one of the ballot initiates is going to be struck down.

The process for getting an initiative on the ballot is simple. The initiative supporters take to the streets to collect signatures. The objective is to meet the state’s threshold for legal signatures by a given deadline. If enough legal signatures are collected on time, the initiative will be placed on the ballot on which California voters can vote. Therein lies the problem that was encountered by supporters of the sports betting initiative that was presented by a coalition of Indian Tribes and corporate interests.

The petition was sent to California Secretary of State Shirley Weber‘s office for ballot certification. During the ballot initiative certification process, the Secretary of State determined that the petition has failed to meet the 110% threshold of the valid signatures needed to make the 2024 ballot.

By the Numbers

According to the final count, there was a total of 1,315,461 signatures collected on the petition. Of that number, more than 360,000 of the signatures were found to be invalid. The final tally of valid signatures was 955,807, which was far short of the 1,096,853 signatures that were required for passage.

While that is certainly bad news for sports bettors in California, the petition did hit the prescribed 95% threshold, which means it is eligible for a full review. That gives initiative supporters in certain California counties until October 20 to reverify their signatures. Will it matter? It’s very unlikely they will find the 40,000 signatures needed to reverse the Secretary of State’s decision.

What Now?

Assuming the aforementioned initiative goes down as projected, proponents will have to go back to the drawing board and give it another try. There is still plenty of time to go through this process again as the deadline to make the 2024 California state ballot doesn’t come until the middle of 2023. It’s very possible the Indian Tribes can craft something that California voters can support.

In the meantime, it looks like California’s indifference to sports betting will leave sports betting enthusiasts doing what they have had to do in the past. That would be making the trek to states like Arizona and Nevada where retail/mobile sports betting is legal.

It’s worth noting that the aforementioned initiative Prop 27 will be on the 2022 ballot. Unfortunately, the early polls show that the initiative will likely go down to defeat. The issue at hand is familiar. Support for sports betting in California is splintered between two factions: Indian Tribes that want total control and corporate gambling interests that want a piece of the pie. Until one side or the other gives, it looks like sports betting legislation in California will have to stay on the sidelines until further notice.


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