California’s Voters to Decide Fate of Legal Sports Betting

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The path to legalized sports betting in California has become rather clear in recent weeks. This November, registered voters in the state will have three different referendums to consider as part of the general election ballot.

Recent in-state polls show that 45% of California voters would support legal sports betting and 33% would be opposed.

The basic gist behind each referendum brings legal sports betting to the state. However, each ballot initiative takes a slightly different approach in its wording and stipulations for regulating the industry. The bottom line for the legal US sports betting industry is the market potential California brings to the table.

The sports betting initiative with the most momentum would be the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.

The financial support behind this proposal has topped $100 million in contributions. This fund was heavily bolstered by the legal US commercial sports betting industry. As the top three US-based sportsbook operators, FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM contributed most of those funds.

This act has also received verbal support from several California mayors as well as other high-profile community leaders. One of the biggest provisions of this act would create partnerships between commercial sportsbook operators and in-state gaming tribes.

Taxes and any related fees tied to sport betting revenue would be earmarked for issues concerning homelessness and mental health. This measure would also allocate 15% of sports betting revenue for California tribes that are not part of the sportsbook industry.

The second voter referendum on November’s ballot would legalize sports betting at in-state tribal casinos and horse tracks. This option is entitled the Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative.

This proposal would only allow sports betting through retail sportsbooks located in tribal casinos and racetracks. Online sports betting would not be permitted.

Most in-state gaming tribes are in favor of this option to maintain their current monopoly for legal gaming in California. The lack of online sports betting through mobile sportsbook apps is viewed as a major drawback.

The third ballot referendum on legal sports betting is backed by California’s card rooms. This option is known as the California Legalize Sports Betting Initiative.

Bypassing gaming tribes altogether, sports betting would be legal through both retail operators and online through mobile apps. Sports betting would also be permitted at in-state professional sports venues through retail sportsbooks.

Given the existing network of tribal casinos in the state, garnering a high level of support for this option would meet the most resistance.

Regardless of which voter initiative has the best chance to pass, the timing for legal sports betting in California appears to be right. Support continues to grow as more and more states amend their current gaming laws.

Overnight, New York became the biggest state for sports betting with the addition of legal mobile sportsbooks. California’s market could be even bigger given the sheer size of the potential sports betting population.

Written by Dave Schwab, our US sports betting industry expert.

The featured image for this post was sourced on Getty Images.