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Is the Day of Sports Betting Reckoning in California Soon Coming?

April 7, 2022

Of the 17 or so states that have been holdouts when it comes to legalizing sports betting for its residents, California sits as the state that has the most to win or lose. In the three years since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the country’s ban on sports betting, California government representatives have made several attempts to get sports betting legislation done. Of course, those efforts have been to no avail.

Standing in the way has been California’s robust and active Tribal population. To say that California’s Indian Tribes have a collective monopoly on casino gambling in the state would be an understatement. That level of control is exactly why Californians are not yet able to legally wagers on sports from within the state.

Two Sports Gambling Initiatives Appear on the California Horizon

To pass sports betting legislation in the U.S., some kind of legislation will need to be presented to California voters to say “yea or nay.” It could be that not one but two initiatives might actually make it onto the California ballot by the time the November 2022 mid-term elections roll around.

The first initiative has been created by a coalition of the state’s most prominent Indian Tribes. The second initiative is moving forward with the support of many top “big city” mayors in conjunction with gambling interests from outside the state. Those outside the state gambling interests include some of the largest mobile sports betting operators in the U.S.

The Tribal initiative has already secured enough signatures to make it on the November ballot. As one would expect, the provisions of the Tribal initiative would give the state’s Indian Tribes primary control over sports betting in California from tribal casinos. There is a carveout for the state’s four primary race tracks.

With over $100 million of invested financial support from DraftKings, Fanduel, and BetMGM, the second initiative would seek to allow a broader base of sports betting operators to have access to the state’s avid sports bettors. As motivation for Californians to back this initiative, the proposal calls for 85% of the tax revenue to be allocated to the state’s rampant homeless and mental health issues.

As of now, it would be the second initiative that has gained favored status. As risk is billions of dollars of sports betting revenue each month with at least 10% going to the state. Given California’s fiscal issues, every bit of “free” revenue the state can land would be a boon.

There are issues with both initiatives. For instance, the Tribal coalition is not interested in allowing mobile sports betting access. They strongly feel that would be incredibly detrimental to their retail gambling operations.

While the second initiative seems to be more inclusive and supportive of mobile sports betting, the signatures have not yet been secured to get the initiative on the November ballot. To further complicit issues, there are a couple of other sports betting initiatives that are trying to get traction. This is a story worth watching over the next few months.


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