Big-Name Sportsbooks Secure Betting Vote on CA’s November Ballot

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Ballots in California waiting to be counted. Getty Images

Multiple ballot initiatives to get legal sports betting on the books have cleared the first hurdle in California: getting enough signatures by the petitions' deadline. That happened on Tuesday, May 3rd, and two competing initiatives with different goals will both be left to the voting public.

Qualifying for this ballot is big business in CA, and numerous groups have thrown their money at the problem in the form of special interest groups and lobbies. On the side of the commercial sportsbooks with $100 million in investment is the “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support" initiative. Backed by big names like BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings, this proposal up for a November 2022 vote will earmark 85% of sports betting revenues to go towards support for mental health, addiction, and homelessness in the Golden State.

Tribal Leaders Unsatisfied with Commercial-First Proposal

The remaining 15% would go towards the tribal partners of said commercial sportsbooks- and certain tribal representatives aren't too happy about the split. At the Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention in April, tribal chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation Cody Martinez had this to say:

Once (commercial operators) in, they’re never going to leave. The golden goose is California. Why would they want a narrow approach when they just can expand, expand, expand for more revenue for their shareholders? Meanwhile, we’re fighting to provide programs and services for our people. To me, it’s not a blurry line and what we’re trying to protect and fight for is Indian gaming in this state. The long-term fight is going to be challenging.

Cody Martinez, Tribal Chairman of Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation

The competing proposal to make it on the November 2022 ballot by securing enough signatures is the Tribal Sports Wagering Act, and it firmly puts tribal leaders in the drivers seat for California sports betting, but does not provide for online betting. Tribal leaders also continue to cite problem gambling as an opposition to online wagering, with Martinez reminding that online play "(turns) virtually every cell phone, laptop, tablet and gaming console into a gambling device, increasing the risks of underage and problem gambling".

Who's Got the Support?

What's likely to happen now? Well, opponents of the so-called "Corporate Online Gambling Proposition" say that two competing initiatives on one ballot never tend to make it to the finish line, and a number of studies seem to contradict one another as to whether or not a majority of Californians even support the idea of legal sports betting. Surely, the situation will continue to heat up on the West Coast as interested parties continue to battle for their side, but it's too early to call this race.

Written by Chris Altman, our US sports betting industry expert.

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