California, widely regarded as potentially the biggest market for sports betting, has moved a significant step closer to welcoming the regulations that will open up legal sports wagering. There is, however, a major caveat in the new sports betting bill in that any new opportunities will be limited to tribal interests and racetracks.
Effectively, that leaves the state’s 70-plus estate of card rooms outside of the action although under the new legislation they will be entitled to continue offering designated player games without challenge from the tribes.
The details of the latest proposals were summarized by Legal Sports Report. They include a tax rate of 10% on gross revenue for onsite wagering and 15% for mobile or online wagering. There will be a $5m initial licensing fee and $1m annual fee for online wagering platforms. Licensees will pay 1% of revenue to fund problem gambling programs.
California’s four licensed horse racing tracks can also have sports betting at one satellite wagering facility, while each tribe, racetrack and satellite facility authorized to offer sports betting may do so through one internet website. For in-play wagers, providers will be mandated to use official league data.
While the new bill seeks to encourage outcomes that suit all parties, there is still likely to be pushback from the card room operators who want in on any opportunities to grow the business through sports wagering. Tribal interests, too, will not welcome regulation that they claim sees a continuation of ‘casino-style’ games being allowed off-reservation.
And still in play is the tribes’ own ballot initiative to bring legal sports wagering to California which faces a June 25 deadline for sign off.
For the time being, the bitter feud between tribes and card rooms looks set to continue. There is also the question of how much tax revenue could be lost should sports betting be the sole preserve of the tribal casinos and racetracks.