California AG files two sports betting measures

San Francisco, CA
Image: Shutterstock

When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, as revellers welcomed in the new year with fireworks and champagne, the US entered an election year. 

On Nov. 5, America will take to the ballot box in what could be one of the most dramatic elections yet, which would be some feat considering the last two votes. 

Yet, it isn’t just the Presidential election that could offer fireworks as work gets underway to get a sports betting measure on the ballot in California this year. 

The Attorney General’s office has published two measures which feature titles and summaries of efforts to legalize sports betting in the Golden State, just one election cycle after miserable failure in 2022. 

One of the measures – Initiative 23-0030 Amendment 1 – is the initiative filed by Kasey Thompson, a so-called “tech bro” who went ahead and filed a measure to legalize tribal sports betting without the support of the state’s tribes. 

Thompson’s measure would pave the way for the state to agree gaming compacts with the tribes to legalize online sports wagering statewide, along with in-person sports wagering, roulette, and dice games on tribal lands. 

The measure further states that tribes will pay up to 25% of sports-wagering profits to non-participating tribes and up to 1% to the state for regulatory costs.

Alongside a brief summary of the initiative, the AG has provided fiscal analysis from an independent financial advisor. Thompson’s measure is expected to provide “increased state revenues that could reach into the tens of millions of dollars annually, depending on how the measure is implemented and legally interpreted”.

Meanwhile, the second measure – Initiative 23-0031 – is less detailed and notes that tribes would be authorized to provide online sports betting on tribal lands to those aged 21 and over, if approved by the electorate. It is tied to the Thompson proposal.

This second measure does not come with comprehensive answers on the financial impact for the state or the tribes and is much more inconclusive. 

It reads: “No immediate fiscal effects on the state and local governments as the Legislature would be allowed—but not required—to authorize sports wagering. If the Legislature authorizes sports wagering, uncertain increase in state and local government costs and revenues depending on various factors including the specific regulatory and other requirements adopted.”

Now the initiatives have been published, the proponents will petition the public to gain signatures in a bid to get their respective initiatives on the ballot in November. 

Proponents must gain the support of over 870,000 members of the public to even get on the ballot and have until April to do so, which will be a tall order given the time restrictions. 

Meanwhile, even if the measures do make it onto the ballot, it seems unlikely that it would pass in 2024 given tribal opposition. 

California Nations Indian Gaming Association has formally opposed Thompson’s measures and has indicated that it will do all it takes to ensure it does not pass in 2024. 

“The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors. It is hard not to be offended when listening to these individuals speak. This is another example of outside influences trying to divide and conquer Indian tribes. We will not let history repeat itself,” said CNIGA Chairman James Siva last year.

The 2022 election on sports betting during the midterms ended in disaster for all parties after both Prop 26 – the tribal sports betting movement – and Prop 27 – the commercial sports betting proposition – resoundingly failed at the polls. 

Both bills failed to get 20% support at the polls despite over $600m being spent by both sides of the debate in campaigning.