California Dreamin’ of Sports Betting Initiatives

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General view of the iconic Hollywood sign in California. Joe Klamar/AFP

In the 2022 midterm election, California will likely have competing sports betting questions on the ballot and the outcome could be contested in the courts when it is all said and done.

Let’s take a look at what could be in store for the future of legal sports betting in California.

Tribal Wishes

The California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act is the bill being advocated by California’s tribal nations and it has several aspects to it, all of which exclude online sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings.

In a nutshell, it would allow sports betting at all of the tribal casinos and the four racinos in the state. It would also expand casino gambling at the casinos to include dice and roulette games. In essence, it would keep California gaming under the same roof as it resides at this very moment. 

“The Most Responsible Approach”

“Our research shows that California voters prefer an incremental approach to authorizing sports betting,” Mark Macaro, the tribal president of the Pechanga Band of the Luiseno Indians in Southern California, told ESPN.

Macaro insists the tribal measure is “the most responsible approach” to legalizing sports betting in California, stating that “all bets are individualized with safeguards in a tribal casino”. He added that this should be imposed to help prevent underage and illegal gambling.

Online Operators Beg to Differ

There are always differing viewpoints, especially when a massive amount of money is at stake, and the online sportsbooks we have seen take charge of the market in other states are salivating at the opportunity to operate in the most populous state in the union.

The California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act is a measure that has been put forth by the online operators and it would permit online gambling outside of Native American tribal lands but only if they partner with a tribe

This seems like the logical choice as Californians would be able to make a bet from their couch without taking a drive to the nearest casino. It would also ensure that the tribal nations currently engaged in the gambling business get a piece of the online pie as they would be partnered with the providers themselves.

What if Both Measures Pass?

California’s ballot questions have been the subject of controversy as they are sometimes worded in ways that are unclear to voters who made their way to the polls but have other pressing issues on their daily agenda, like getting to work.

If a voter does not read close enough, and most don’t, they could be voting for something they would object to had they understood the question. And in this case, both measures could pass with the one getting the most “yes” votes taking precedence over the other, if they conflict.

Possible Scenarios

However, reading the way both these measures are crafted, there does not appear to be a conflict but if the tribal measure gets more yes votes then they would likely bring this to court to throw out the initiative led by the online operators. 

If the reverse happens and the online giants get their way then they would likely go on their merry way and allow the tribal measure to coexist. But there is still plenty of time between now and November which means deals can be made and both parties can be satisfied.

Until then, we will wait to find out what the future holds in terms of sports betting in the Golden State.