California Sports Betting Bill Gets Suspenseful At New Hearing

Posted on June 9, 2020

A California sports betting bill got its second hearing in a week Tuesday. But it’s only a small procedural step.

The Senate Appropriations Committee placed SCA 6 into the Suspense File, where the California sports betting bill will wait to be acted upon June 18.

Tribal leaders voice opposition at hearing

Although Tuesday’s move was merely procedural, that didn’t stop tribal leaders from calling in to put their opposition on the record as they did last week.

Edwin Romero, chairman of the Barona Band of Mission Indians and James Siva, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, were given three minutes each as primary speakers for the opposition.

Their arguments against the bill included that proponents claim exaggerated economic benefits for California, a belief that online betting would devastate tribal economies, and that it provides constitutional protections for what they consider to be illicit activities by the cardrooms.

Seventeen callers followed with phone calls noting their opposition. Sixteen of the calls came from tribal representatives.

Before the committee referred the bill to the Suspense File, Sen. Bob Wieckowski asked bill author Sen. Bill Dodd to reconsider two points:

  1. The $10 million cap on the 1% of gross gaming revenues going to problem gambling programs.
  2. Excluding county fairs from participating in sports betting at a time when the Senate is putting $600 million in the budget to help out struggling counties.

A close call for California sports betting bill

A week ago, Dodd pushed the bill through his Senate Governmental Organization Committee despite a contentious hearing.

After many phone calls in support from cardrooms and opposition from tribal leaders, the bill failed 8-3 on first vote. Passage required a hard majority of nine yes votes from the 16 members.

On second go around, Sen. Steve Glazer switched his vote from neutral to allow the bill to move forward 9-3.

However, Glazer spoke earlier about the importance of protecting the gaming franchises of the tribes. He only switched his vote on the promise from Dodd that he would not bring the bill up on the Senate floor without Glazer’s approval.

SCA 6 gets fiscal note ahead of committee hearing

The California sports betting bill received a fiscal note this week for review in the Appropriations Committee.

Consultant Janelle Miyashiro assessed that the bill would result in a one-time General Fund cost to the Secretary of State in the range of $438,000 to $584,000. This estimate is based on printing and mailing costs to place the measure on the ballot for the statewide election in November.

The Department of Justice anticipates costs in the millions of dollars for additional workload to enforce the provisions of the act. The California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act authorizes legal sports betting onsite and online through tribal casinos and racetracks.

What is a Suspense File?

The Appropriations committee reviews all bills with a fiscal impact after passage by a policy committee.

All Senate bills with a fiscal note of more than $50,000 go to the Suspense File. Nearly 100 bills brought up in Senate Appropriations on Tuesday got that fate.

So where does the suspense come in?

After the state budget is complete and the committee has a better sense of available revenue, Suspense File bills get their verdict.

The Appropriations Committee scheduled the Suspense Hearing for June 18, three days after the budget deadline.

At the Suspense File hearing, there is no further testimony or comment from the bill authors or stakeholders.

Once the bills are in the Suspense File, that’s when the suspense begins. Whether the bill advances to the Senate floor or stops in its tracks gets determined behind the scenes.

At the Suspense Hearing, the committee reveals the fates of the bills in rapid fire. Bills can be passed, passed with amendments or held in the committee.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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