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California lawmakers plan to continue their effort to put a sports betting initiative on the ballot despite the state’s Native American tribes opting to break off and file their own amendment.
Sen. Bill Dodd, who chairs the Senate Governmental Organization Committee that oversees gaming, told Legal Sports Report that he and his Assembly counterpart, Adam Gray, will proceed with holding hearings to fill out ACA 16.
Dodd established that the first sports betting hearing on ACA 16 is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 15 in Sacramento. He expects there will be multiple hearings before the legislature finalizes the framework of the bill in June.
The committee chairmen originally planned to hold the first hearing for ACA 16 on Nov. 20 at Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Eighteen of California’s key Indian gaming tribes filed their own ballot initiative to amend the constitution to permit sports betting at Indian casinos and racetracks two days prior to when the hearing was expected to be held.
“Frankly, I didn’t expect it, but it really wasn’t a surprise,” Dodd said. “They obviously have firm beliefs on what they see should be happening in this area, and that’s their right. But I represent all the people in the state of California, not just the tribes. And I think our approach to this should be more holistic.”
Dodd stressed that the November hearing didn’t get canceled because the tribes went out on their own. He said the California wildfires, which were particularly damaging in his district, caused the postponement. Then rescheduling became problematic.
Dodd expressed that he and Gray wanted to go into hearings with an empty slate and hear from all sides before putting together a plan for offering sports betting in the state.
That won’t be happening anymore. Battle lines have been drawn.
“This is just about the tribes and not about anyone else. It didn’t deal with online wagering; it didn’t take care of any of the short-term or long-term problems in the gambling industry except ones facing the tribes. I’m not mad about it. I work in Sacramento and special interests are everywhere.”
He admitted that early discussions with the tribes on sports betting didn’t go well, which he attributed to the tribes’ insistence on excluding cardrooms.
“When you look at all gaming interests in California – FanDuel, DraftKings, sports teams, cardrooms … and all these things – so many people were left out of this initiative,” Dodd said. We’ve got to consider them as well as the racetracks and tribes.”
Given mobile wagering’s success in other sports betting markets — mobile makes up about 80% of all betting revenue in New Jersey — and its availability to Californians in the black market, Dodd doesn’t see the regulation of sports betting succeeding in the state without its inclusion.
“I think if we don’t include mobile, then sports betting will remain in the shadows in the state of California,” Dodd said. “Part of our goal is to take it out of the shadows, tax it for the benefit of public schools and make sure problem gamblers get the help they need.”
He added that excluding cardrooms, often located in more urban locations than other gaming facilities in the state, also would limit state revenue from sports betting.
“The cardrooms that participate in gambling in the state of California have a huge economic impact on many areas of the state, particularly cities in Southern California,” Dodd said. “What I’m charged with is finding the right constitutional amendment that serves Californians well in this area of sports betting and also generates the most money possible for education going forward.”
Dodd stated that he expects all gaming stakeholders, including the tribes, to take part in the hearing.
The chairmen no longer plan to hold joint committee hearings in different areas around the state, according to Dodd. All hearings will take place in Sacramento.
He hopes to fill out the bill with language detailing the specifics of how sports betting would be handled in California by March.
To get on the ballot, ACA 16 would need approval from two-thirds of the members in both legislative chambers at least 180 days prior to the November elections.
Dodd contended that it isn’t impossible for the legislative initiative to pass both chambers and win at the ballot without support from the state’s tribes.
“When you get FanDuel, DraftKings, the sports leagues and other interested parties merging together, do they have enough money to run an initiative or support one?” Dodd said. “We’ll have to see.”