The Nation’s largest state is finally getting the ball rolling on possible sports betting legislation, but is it all smoke and mirrors or will Californians finally be able to bet on sports?
As the sports betting landscape changes rapidly across the United States, there has always been one question in the back of everyone’s minds: What about California? The largest state in the country is at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to where they would like to expand their sports betting business, but there had not been even a hint of a discussion about possible legislation.
This week, a coalition of more than 15 California Native Tribes filed a ballot for the 2020 election to make sports betting legal in the west-coast state. This is not the first time someone has tried to propose legislation of some sort in California, but this is definitely the strongest attempt to date. The tribes are notorious for not agreeing on issues, so having a group this large that is all on the same page is without question a huge step in the right direction.
The California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act is supported by 18 different tribes in California, none more important than the Pechanga tribe. Pechanga has been heavily involved in all the major gambling decisions in the state for years and having their support will go a long way with the governor’s office.
“The tribally sponsored initiative filed today to amend California’s Constitution so as to authorize and regulate sports wagering is the best example of well-written and responsible sports betting policy presented to date.” said Steve Stallings, Chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association. “A strong, well-regulated gaming industry is of utmost importance to California’s tribal governments and the public. This initiative allows sports wagering in a responsible manner and provides for transparency and strict regulation.”
What’s in the Proposal?
This proposal is one that makes sports betting the domain of the tribal groups in California, similar to the current setup for casinos across the state. Here some of the highlights of the potential measure:
- Anyone who wants to bet on sports will have to be at least 21 years of age.
- A tax rate on sports wagering of 10%, which puts it in a competitive position related to the tax rates being implemented across the country.
- There would be no betting on any high school events in the state
- There would be a committee set up at the government level to work on ensuring the integrity of sporting events held inside the state lines.
- Sports betting accounts would need to be set up in authorized gaming facilities and sports betting will be confined to the boundaries of those locations.
Wait…no online betting?
Of course, there is one slight issue with this proposal – the fact that players will have to travel to facilities to make their bets. The California tribes have long fought against online gambling in all forms over the years, wanting to protect the land-based facilities they spent so much money building.
This news will come as no shock to anyone who has been involved with the ongoing battle over online poker in the state, but with sports betting becoming such a huge news story nationally, there was hope that the tribes would see this as the time to be more receptive to players being able to gamble from their phones or laptops.
One look at the numbers that are coming in from states like New Jersey and Indiana show the need for mobile betting. In New Jersey, over 75% of the betting activity comes from online play, and it is not likely to be much lower in any state that implements both in-person and mobile betting.
Why this is proposal important?
Let’s look at the positives here first: having a coalition of tribes with these kinds of numbers means that the state will at the very least have the right stakeholders at the table to move discussion about any legislation forward. This can only be a positive, as in the past there have been several smaller groups of opinions that have often ended in stalemate.
Having said that, it is hard to believe that a measure like the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act can pass in its current state – there is too much on the line with mobile betting. You can be sure that companies like Draft Kings and Fanduel have already started their lobbying efforts to ensure they get their piece of the action.
Finally, this possible legislation does not include licensing for the many cardrooms that are operating in California, and you can bet these groups will be fighting to be part of any discussion of legalized sports betting.
What are the next steps?
For now, we aren’t likely to see any movement on this proposed ballot measure. There was a hearing scheduled by the state legislature on sports betting for later in November but for the time being that has been postponed. What we do know is this – any discussion about legalized sports betting is excellent news for residents of the Golden State…but we aren’t holding our breath that talks will get from hypothetical situations to regulations anytime soon.
This is an ongoing story, and our team will be following closely to report back the most up to date information to our readers.