Californians clamoring for legal sports betting will have a clear set of options at the ballot box: mobile apps, tribal casino betting or both.
What was once a four-group battle boiled down to just two proposals this week, after cardrooms and a group of three Indian tribes failed to qualify their sports betting initiatives for the November ballot.
That should alleviate concerns over confusing voters with too many choices and leaves just two propositions in the running:
- Retail sports betting limited to in-person bets at tribal casinos
- Statewide online sports betting through partnerships between commercial operators and tribes
If each surpasses the 50% vote threshold both become legal, though tribes view the FanDuel and DraftKings-backed measure as a threat to their monopoly on California gaming.
Tribes Oppose Online Gaming
The tribes have promised a full-frontal campaign to block mobile sportsbooks from entering the state.
“With this announcement, our coalition is fully focused on defeating the corporate online gambling measure and passing the Tribal In-Person Sports Wagering Act,” said Kathy Fairbanks a spokeswoman with the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming. “We’ll be working with our broad coalition of Indian Tribes, social justice, public safety, business and community leaders to educate the voters about the benefits of our in-person measure and the dangers associated with the corporate online measure.”
They released a survey last month claiming that 53% of voters oppose online betting, with most concerned about accessibility fueling addiction and sending revenue to out-of-state companies. A separate poll from the online operators claims 59% of voters favor it.
“We’re confident in our measure,” said Nathan Click, a spokesperson with Californians for Solutions to Homelessness & Mental Health Support. “It has far and away the most benefits for the state and is the best path forward for California.”
It sets the minimum age to bet at 21 years old and requires online betting to go live by August 2023.
Online Measure Directs Funding to Major Issues
The commercial measure has drawn support from several California mayors and advocates for the homeless. It would direct 85% of tax revenue to funding for homelessness, mental health and addiction services.
The remaining 15% would go directly to the tribes, who commercial operators would need to partner with to launch their apps.
That ends up being a lot of money.
California is the most populous state in the country, twice the size of New York, which has made $163 million in taxes in its first three months of online betting. It’s long been considered the crown-jewel of the sports betting market, and would see a ton of marketing from mobile sportsbooks should their measure qualify.
Verification Still Needed
Last week the commercial campaign submitted more than the 1 million signatures need to qualify for the ballot. California counties have until Friday to submit their raw totals to Secretary of State Shirley Weber.
Weber has until June 30 to verify them and officially qualify the ballot measure, which Click expects will happen.
The competing initiative backed by the tribes has already qualified.
“We expect the corporate operators’ will qualify since they turned in enough signatures, but those signatures still need to be counted and verified by California’s 58 counties,” Fairbanks said.
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