Second California sports betting initiative added to November ballot

California Sports Betting Debate
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An online sports betting initiative backed by major operators will appear on the California ballot this fall. Despite serious efforts tribes in the state, the measure obtained over a million signatures. The state validated the signatures this week, setting up a showdown on California sports betting come November.

Online sports betting initiative backed by DraftKings, FanDuel

The ballot qualification was not cheap. The following operators pushed the measure through with a combined spend of $100 million:

Bally’s Interactive

Penn National Gaming

The measure also includes an element to fight homelessness in California in order to appeal to state residents. A full 85% of tax revenues will go to homelessness and mental health programs in the state. The tax rate is a modest 10%, but the upfront licensing fee of $100 million per operator would generate major money for the cause. So much so, that the initiative is branded Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support.

While the initiative specifically states it does not contradict or interfere with the other, tribal-backed initiative, tribes actively tried to defeat the measure.

The online bill stipulates each operator needs a tribal partner. Despite this, both the backers of the tribal initiative on the ballot and an additional initiative aiming for 2024 inclusion openly oppose the measure.

On Tuesday, the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, the group behind the tribal initiative, issued a statement about the new measure’s inclusion on the ballot.

“The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition would legalize online and mobile sports gambling – turning virtually every cell phone, laptop, tablet, and gaming console into a gambling device, increasing the risks of underage and problem gambling,” said Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. “We will run a vigorous campaign against this measure and are confident the voters will see through the deceptive promises being made by these out-of-state gambling corporations.”

Tribal initiative with no online betting qualified in May

A tribal retail betting initiative qualified for the ballot back in May. This measure includes all 66 tribal gaming properties as well as four horse racing tracks. What it does not include is online betting or any wagering on college teams for schools located in the state.

This initiative is years in the making. There were efforts to get the measure on the 2020 ballot, however, the pandemic derailed signature gathering. Like the other proposition, the tax rate for this measure would be 10% with 15% of tax revenue going to support problem gambling initiatives.

Expect a California sports betting showdown this fall

With two measures on the ballot, it sets up a battle for public support. It also raises some questions. While the online initiative says the two measures are compatible, it would likely end up in the courts for a judge to litigate. Given today’s statement from the tribes, it is certainly something that would create a legal fight.

The coalition’s statement also featured a number of allies ranging from law enforcement to representatives from college athletics. Statements from the group also refer to the initiative as the “out-of-state initiative” to hammer home its corporate interests.

On the other side, online operators have already shown their willingness to spend to get into California given many people cite it as the last major opportunity for US operators. Expect more ads promoting the measure as Election Day nears.

Like seemingly every type of gambling in California, sports betting’s birth in the Sunshine State could be clouded in in-fighting and controversy. Or, in a scenario that benefits no sports betting fans in California, both measures could come up short and California remains on the shrinking list of states with no sports betting options.