Legal Sports Betting in California Fails to Make November’s Ballot

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One of the biggest potential markets for legal sports betting in the country could remain ‘off the books’ for at least three more years according to multiple news sources covering the situation.

A mad scramble to add a sports betting referendum to this November’s general election ended earlier this week. The main force behind the bill was Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa). He made the tough decision to pull the bill just one day before a critical vote by a fiscal committee appointed to discuss its merits.

In a direct quote taken from a post on DesertSun.com, Dodd stated:

Given the deadlines for getting a measure on the November ballot and the impact of COVID-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in, we were not able to get the bill across the finish line.

The bill would have needed to get the approval of the fiscal committee first. It would have also needed the approval of the state senate and the state assembly to land on November’s ballot as a general referendum for voters.
A referendum vote is needed to amend the state constitution. That change would have approved sports betting at the state’s tribal casinos as well as through online sports betting sites such as Pointsbet, Unibet, BetRivers, or bet365.

The bill was opposed by the Native American tribes in the state because of the online gaming component. They are also opposed to any legal online casinos such as Resorts Casino, Pala, or bet365.

It continues to appear that legal sports betting California will be an uphill fight. Dodd’s bill was the latest effort to move in this direction in hopes of regulating and taxing legal sports betting.

The potential sports betting market in the largest state in the country by population would be huge. Industry analysts had projected more than $200 million in revenue in the first year alone.

The original amendment to the state constitution allowing casino gambling was passed in 2000. Known as Proposition 1A, this opened the door to negotiated compacts with federally recognized tribes. It made no provisions for California to operate land-based casinos found in the neighboring state Nevada’s gambling rules.

Over the years, tribes operating casinos see Proposition 1A as a mandate that gives them exclusive rights to casino gambling in the state. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association made the following comments in a press release this week:

We are heartened to see that SCA 6 is being pulled from the legislative process. While we appreciate that the state was trying to find additional revenues during this time, this bill was simply bad policy. It unjustly rewards the commercial, for-profit gaming industry for their practice of conducting Nevada-style games in flagrant violation of California law. This bill would have threatened brick-and-mortar establishments by legalizing online gaming, which would reward out-of-state commercial business entities and raise regulatory challenges.

The earliest that any new legislation on this matter can be reintroduced is 2022. Meanwhile, the California tribes are working on their own initiative for legal sports betting exclusive to land-based tribal casinos in the state.

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