How New California Sports Betting Amendments Shoot For Compromise

Posted on June 16, 2020

Proposed changes to the California sports betting bill provide further restrictions on cardrooms and a multiyear phase-in of mobile wagering.

Legal Sports Report obtained an overview sheet of proposed amendments for SCA 6 that author Sen. Bill Dodd sent Tuesday to tribal leaders.

The amendments attempt to address concerns raised by tribes on California sports betting at two committee hearings earlier this month.

“They are changes we hope will make legalized sports betting become reality in California,” said Paul Payne, spokesman for Dodd.

While drawing a lukewarm response from cardrooms, the changes weren’t enough to gain support from tribal representatives who spoke to LSR.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is addressing the bill in a Suspense Hearing on Thursday. The bill could advance to the Senate floor.

Cardrooms face restrictions in amended bill

The most significant proposed changes to SCA 6 involve the way the cardrooms offer table games.

The bill authorizes sports betting only for tribal casinos and horse racetracks. To garner support of cardrooms while leaving them out of CA sports betting, the bill clarified the legality of the way they offer games like blackjack using third-party proposition players.

Tribes have long opposed the way they believe cardrooms infringe on their exclusivity for house-banked games. Lawmakers proposed the following changes to address those concerns:

  • Mandating rotation of the dealer in table games
  • Mandating fees in table games
  • Moratorium on new cardroom licenses
  • Moratorium on new tables games, with limited growth for small cardrooms
  • Limits on combining or relocating cardrooms
  • Restrictions on cardroom advertisements

Phase-in of mobile sports wagering

Some tribal leaders expressed fears that mobile sports wagering could negatively affect what they’ve built with their brick-and-mortar casinos.

To address those concerns, the amendments roll mobile wagering out in three phases that would delay fully mobile CA sports betting until 2023:

  • September 2021: Sports wagering goes live only at licensed brick-and-mortar casinos and tracks with mobile betting limited to within those properties.
  • September 2022: Statewide mobile sports wagering goes live but registration is required in person at the casinos and tracks.
  • September 2023: The in-person restriction is lifted, allowing people to register remotely for mobile sports betting accounts.

It’s surely no coincidence that September typically marks the beginning of the NFL season.

Reactions from CA gaming industry stakeholders

The proposed changes haven’t moved the needle on the positions of the key industry stakeholders.

Tribes still strongly oppose the bill. Jacob Mejia, spokesman for a coalition of tribes attempting to put their own sports betting initiative on the ballot, called the amendments “meaningless window dressing.”

“The bill would still repeal tribal gaming rights and hand them to cardrooms that have been raided by the FBI for money laundering and have been involved with loan sharking and other criminal activities. This proposal is a farce. Californians would resoundingly reject this broken promise, and we are confident the legislature will see right through this brazen attempt.”

Tribal lobbyist David Quintana added:

“Unfortunately, these amendments were worked out without the opposition at the table. They still fall exceedingly short of anything close to being acceptable and so the tribes who were opposed are still opposed.”

Steven Maviglio, a political consultant for California cardrooms, indicated that the cardrooms aren’t pulling their support.

“All cardrooms advocated for was the status quo for their industry, and to allow the state to capture sorely needed revenue from the illegal sports betting market. While there is no cardroom in the state that likes any of these newly imposed restrictions, it’s something much of the industry is willing to consider in order to help the state solve this challenge.”

Other changes for California sports betting

The proposal cuts annual sportsbook licensing fees in half, from $1 million to $500,000.

Horse racing gets a change as well. It limits racetracks to offering sports betting at five locations.

The amendment allows tribal governments to self-regulate alcohol beverage control if consistent with state laws.

Legalizing sports betting in California requires a constitutional amendment that must go in front of voters. The deadline for bills to pass through the legislature to make the November ballot is June 25.

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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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