Will Sports Betting Finally be Legalized in California?

Updated by Robin Storm verified symbol on July 12, 2022

Today, there are various U.S. states that have legalized sports betting within, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New JerseyPennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. However, one state that many have looked towards for legal sports betting to be made official is California. The Golden State is one of the most populous in the country, and it plays host to multiple sports teams, too. Therefore, it would make sense for it to introduce an inviting sports betting scene, allowing residents to place wagers on their favourite events.

So, will sports betting finally be made legal in California anytime soon? Well, maybe so. Despite the fact that rumours have been swirling in the past and hopes have been raised and then dashed, California looks like it will be making bigger moves than ever before in the near future. What exactly do these moves look like and how will they affect the sports betting scene in the state?

Previous Attempts to Legalize Sports Betting in The Golden State Fall Flat

In the past, there have been many attempts by both lawmakers and Californian tribes to legalize sports betting within state borders. However, these have failed due to various reasons, resulting in residents going without legal sports wagering options where those located elsewhere have had their fill.

As usual, the issue has surrounded political discussions taking place between the tribes and local card rooms, both of whom are looking to capitalize on the potential that sports betting will bring. One of the more recent efforts came about in 2020, with lawmakers looking to come to terms with how to share the largest gambling market that would exist within California. A compromise was sought by advisers to Governor Gavin Newsom, but time ran out before the complicated negotiations could be brought to a final decision.

That led to state Senator Bill Dodd opting to shelve any sort of legislation for the remainder of 2020. The constitutional amendment that he had proposed required two-thirds of the votes from both houses of the Legislature in order to make the ballot for the year, but it was not to be. So, while a myriad of other US state casinos introduced sports betting options in varying degrees, California lagged behind once again.

Dodd stated at the time that he would try once again in 2021 with the hopes of putting a measure on the 2022 ballot. He also said that his proposal of legalizing sports betting within The Golden State would generate up to $700 million every year in tax revenue. Many were not surprised by the outcome in 2020 though, with deadlocks between the various stakeholders in the gambling industry of California being common.

Tribal-Backed Initiative Qualifies for the 2022 Ballot

While many may have been left questioning whether or not the state would finally get to offer its residents legal sports betting, there is definitely hope on the horizon.

A sports-betting voter initiative, which has been wholly promoted by the state’s Native American tribes and limits such activity primarily to their own tribal casinos, has actually qualified for the November 2022 ballot. Details noted by the California Secretary of State’s Office suggest that if it is to pass, then it would provide the tribes with quite the significant victory. It was only due to these tribes that the aforementioned bill in the Legislature was squashed last year. 

That happened despite the fact that the bill had the backing of the NBA, MLB, PGA Golf Tour and even five of the state’s professional sports teams, including the Dodgers and Giants.

The initiative from the tribes is being led by a consortium, which includes the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Who owns Cache Creek Casino Resort, located in Yolo County. Several gaming tribes in the south of the state have also backed the initiative, too. What’s more, a mobile casino apps industry consultant in Reno is convinced that Californian voters will stand behind the tribal initiative.

“It hasn’t failed in any state so far”, said Ken Adams. “It’s the most openly embraced expansion of gambling in my lifetime”, he continued, before making the bold statement that the initiative is “as popular as anything” within the United States.

Through the initiative, sports betting would be made legal and available at four of the Californian racetracks, which are all privately owned. These are the Golden Gate Fields, located in Berkeley, as well as three based in Southern California – Santa Anita, Del Mar and Los Alamitos. 

This move was backed heavily by a lobbyist for California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Robyn Black. She said that it “makes sense” including the state’s racetracks, which already offer bets on the races occurring at their courses.

Hopes Are High, But Cardrooms Could Ruin Things

Not so long ago, a selection of sports betting bills were reintroduced in Florida too, which is another state that has struggled with legalising the activity throughout. Unfortunately, there are likely to be issued with that package of bills in The Sunshine State, including the fact that it remains in the hands of the voters as to whether they really want legal sports betting or not. Yet, this doesn’t seem like it will be an issue where California’s voters are concerned.

The primary obstacle there will be the California Gaming Association. This organisation represents the state’s cardrooms, and the head of that group, Kyle Kirkland has vowed to fight the tribal initiative. He said that this represents a highly unfair expansion of the tribes of California when it comes to gambling.

Cardrooms are not included in the tribal initiative at all. They frequently end up battling it out in the Legislature with the tribes, which hold a lot more power as they oversee California’s annual $9 billion gambling income.

Kirkland is the owner of the Club One cardroom located in Fresno, and he claims that it is stupid to legalise sports betting in California but restrict it to the tribal establishments. Experts have suggested that online and mobile betting accounts for between 70% and 80% of revenues generated in other US states. However, tribal officials claim that they are simply attempting to stop sports betting from going out of control in California.

This initiative has gone significantly farther than many other bills produced in the past. However, it still has a long way to go, and anything can happen when there is an opposition.

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