Why Tribal California Sports Betting Initiative Stops Short Of Mobile

Posted on May 28, 2021
California sports betting
Posted By on May 28, 2021

California sports betting will be on the ballot in 2022.

On Thursday, the California Secretary of State announced that a petition for a sports betting ballot question was approved. The ballot measure would authorize tribes in the state to operate roulette, dice games and sports betting in California on tribal lands. Gaming expansion on tribal lands will also require an amended compact with the state.

The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering submitted 1.4 million signatures in October 2020, with more than 1 million verified. The petition needed 997,139 verified signatures. The successful effort comes after the COVID-19 pandemic greatly hampered the early efforts, before the tribes were granted an extension.

California sports betting initiative

Eighteen tribes make up the coalition pushing to legalize retail sports betting at land-based casinos and horse racing tracks. The coalition reportedly spent more than $11 million to collect the signatures, according to the Desert Sun.

“This is an important step toward giving Californians the opportunity to participate in sports wagering while also establishing safeguards and protections against underage gambling,” Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians Chairman Mark Macarro said.

The proposal only includes retail sports betting. Tribes want at least five years before considering online sports betting in California.

Bettors could not wager on in-state college teams under the proposal.

The initiative includes a 10% tax on sports betting at racetracks. Funds would funnel to public safety, mental health programs, education, and regulatory costs.

What’s at stake in California?

California is potentially the largest sports wagering market in the US, with more than 40 million residents, and a robust professional and collegiate sports ecosystem.

Eilers & Krejcik projects retail-only sports betting would generate $200 million for the state. An expansion to online sportsbooks could increase sports betting revenue to $503 million.

New York and Florida are two other major markets that have made movements toward sports betting this year. The fourth big fish, Texas, will wait until at least 2023.

Other California sports betting efforts

Sports betting requires a voter-approved constitutional amendment in California, so the ballot question petition was necessary.

Last year, there was a separate legislative initiative that proposed mobile sports betting. The bill was pulled by sponsor Sen. Bill Dodd because of tribal opposition.

Multiple parties will likely spend heavily to oppose the tribal-led ballot measure, including the California Gaming Association that represents cardrooms.

Past successful gaming ballot efforts

In 1984, California voters first approved gambling with the creation of the lottery.

The tribes won casino operations on ballot questions in 1998 and 2000.

A $115 million effort to expand gaming with four ballot measures succeeded in 2008.

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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