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Don’t look now, but the country’s most populous state is eying up legal sports betting.
For the second year in a row, a pair of California lawmakers introduced a sports betting bill on Thursday. Last year’s bill did not move out of committee, but a recent change in the state’s gambling landscape presents a fresh stage for 2019.
The bill’s introduction comes in the wake of a failed private attempt to garner signatures in support of a referendum. This proposal, however, would be subject to two-thirds approval from the legislature before a majority vote at the ballot box in November 2020.
The referendum itself figures to be a relatively small hurdle to clear given the overall appetite for gambling in the state.
The bill (ACA 16) was not yet filed on the state legislature’s website at the time of writing, so there’s not much to work with so far. What is clear is that lawmakers have plenty of time to sculpt the bill into a perfect posture.
Assemblyman Adam Gray and Senator Bill Dodd, the chairmen of their respective Governmental Organization committees, serve as the joint sponsors of the effort to bring sports betting to California. And encouragingly, their first words on the topic show all the best intentions.
Here’s Dodd highlighting the black market and problem gambling in a press release:
“I look forward to working with stakeholders in a collaborative effort to help bring this out of the shadows. By legalizing sports wagering we can avoid some of the problems associated with an underground market such as fraud and tax evasion while investing in problem gambling education.”
And here’s Gray on consumer protections:
“It’s time to shine a light on this multibillion-dollar industry. We need to crack down on illegal and unregulated online gaming and replace it with a safe and responsible option which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering and fraud. All other gaming activities in California are subject to regulations that ensure the safety of consumers. Sports wagering should be treated no differently.”
Anyone who’s followed gambling for any length of time knows that California is among the most complicated, intricate US markets.
The tribes control gambling in the state, though private companies have pushed right up against the legal boundaries of that exclusivity. In addition to fully approved poker rooms, a number of licensed cardrooms also offer player-banked versions of some casino games.
This clever interpretation of the law has been a source of longstanding tension between the tribes and the state, and the subject of a recent lawsuit. It was the tribes’ recent loss in federal court, in fact, that seemingly paved the path toward legalization.
In a way-too-early look at a potential CA sports betting market, it’s worth mentioning that Caesars is the only large commercial casino operator with a presence in the state. It manages Harrah’s Southern California for the Luiseno Indians outside of San Diego.
More than 60 tribal casinos dot the enormous California landmass.