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Indian tribes are more than halfway to qualifying an initiative to legalize California sports betting at the state’s tribal casinos and racetracks on the ballot in November.
Jacob Mejia, a spokesman for the coalition of 18 tribes backing the effort, tells Legal Sports Report that the tribes have already gathered more than 600,000 signatures for the petition.
Putting the initiative for California sports betting on the ballot requires 997,139 valid signatures.
“We’re off to a really strong start,” Mejia said. “We’ve got until the end of April to gather the signatures we need.”
The tribes began circulating the California sports betting petition on Jan. 23 and plan to turn it into the state around April 21 for the recommended deadline to get signatures checked by random sample.
Random samples must estimate that there are more than 110% of the valid signatures necessary for an initiative to be eligible for the ballot, avoiding a full count.
Right at the midway point of when the petition began circulation and the deadline to submit signatures, the tribes are on pace to clear that threshold. Mejia said the tribes are aiming to submit 1.5 million signatures to be safe.
Passing the 25% mark for required signatures triggered the stipulation that the Senate and Assembly hold joint public hearings in their Governmental Organization committees at least 131 days prior to the Nov. 3 election. The legislature cannot amend the proposed initiative or prevent it from appearing on the ballot.
Mejia stated that one of the major reasons why the tribes did not include mobile wagering in their initiative is that research shows it doesn’t have voter support.
He explained that a survey sponsored by the tribes showed that two-thirds of California voters supported sports betting solely at the physical facilities of Indian casinos and horse racetracks, while only 29% supported mobile wagering.
“We know from a lot of research we’ve done into this issue on public opinion that the voters are not inclined to support an expansive measure that could authorize mobile sports betting,” Mejia said. “We think the best way to approach this policy framework is a measured, comprehensive, responsible proposal, which is what we’ve got in front of voters right now.”
If the tribal initiative passes, Mejia added that it doesn’t mean California will never have mobile sports betting. He expects the tribes would address the issue in the coming years.
“Certainly tribal leadership statewide is very mindful of what’s going on in other parts of the country in terms of sports wagering and the market potential for mobile sports betting,” Mejia said. “But right now, the focus is on earning the trust and support of the voters for this measure. When you look historically at gaming policy in California, it’s typically been done on an incremental basis.”
Mobile sports betting across the country appears to be enjoying rapid adoption by the public. New Jersey and Pennsylvania bettors are placing between eight and nine of every 10 wagers via a mobile device.