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Legal sports betting in California will come down to a voter referendum in November’s 2022 general election. This state remains one of the biggest potential markets in the rapidly expanding legal US sports betting industry.

While the vote is more than a year away, certain venues in the state are getting their ducks in a row. The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors recently approved legal sports wagering for Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Fairgrounds’ officials also agreed to pursue sports betting should it become legal in the state. Part of the reasoning was to attract a high-profile sportsbook operator early in the process.

Del Mar is one of the most popular horse racing tracks in the country. This venue is also the host track for this year’s Breeders’ Cup. This year’s competition will be held on Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 6. It features 14 different races with $31 million in total prize money.

Located in San Diego, Del Mar would be able to offer legal sports betting on both professional and collegiate sporting events. As president and COO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Josh Rubinstein offered the following comment at a recent board of directors meeting:

“Del Mar is the only fairgrounds in the state that would receive revenue from sports wagering under this ballot initiative.”

He also clarified the situation as follows:

“If the citizens of California do not legalize sports wagering, then everything we are talking about goes out the window.”

In other words, this is an all or nothing proposition. However, it is viewed as a step in the right direction to build support among eligible voters.

The California ballot initiative for legal sports betting was formulated by in-state gaming tribes. A favorable outcome would authorize legal sports betting at tribal casinos and certain horse racing tracks. The four counties covered would be Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego.

A coalition of 18 California gaming tribes spent $11.57 million on this initiative. The money was primarily used to collect the necessary 1.4 million signatures for the ballot referendum.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club rents the fairgrounds to host live racing at the track. Under this proposal, there would be a $2 million increase in the annual rent if sports betting becomes legal. The Thoroughbred Club would be responsible for hiring a sportsbook as an operating partner.

This plan is viewed as a necessary step towards bolstering the future financial health of the club. Horse racing revenue continues to decline at venues all across the US. Legal sports betting through retail sportsbooks at tracks can provide some much needed financial relief.

Written by Dave Schwab, our US Sports Betting Industry Expert. You can learn more about our author's expertise here.