California Sports Betting Update: Monday Likely a Pivotal Day for Online Measure
By the end of Monday, we should know if California will have one or two sports betting initiatives on the November ballot.
The marquee at the Los Angeles Theatre in the Southern California city. Los Angeles County is one of eight California counties that has yet to report its signature count on a petition seeking to put online sports betting on the November ballot. (Image: Giovanni Calia/Pexels.com)
Per the Secretary of State’s office, Monday is the deadline for county election officials to conclude random sample signature checks of petitions submitted by “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support.” The committee has proposed a state constitutional amendment to legalize online sports betting, with most of the tax money from the activity going to communities to fund those social service programs.
From April 27 to May 3, the group submitted 1.6 million signatures on petitions to officials in all 58 counties. While state law requires 997,139 valid signatures from registered voters to get an amendment question on the ballot, the online sports betting measure is using a random check method. Because of that, the samples election officials review need to project to 1,096,853 valid signatures.
Through Friday, the projected total was 741,470 with eight counties still left to submit their totals. That means supporters need 355,383 more signatures to be projected as valid in order for the amendment to make the ballot.
Two Major Counties Left to Report
Two of the counties that have yet to report are two of the largest in the state – Los Angeles and Riverside. Barring some surprising results from either county, their projections should put supporters over the threshold they need to meet.
Proponents gathered 418,053 signatures in Los Angeles County and 116,277 in Riverside.
Current projections show the sample checks equating to 73.6% validity. If both counties match that, it would equate to 393,267 valid signatures.
Of the 50 counties that have reported their results, 46 of them reported samples showing projections greater than two-thirds of the signatures being valid. Should LA and Riverside only return with 66.7% of signatures projected as valid, that would still be enough as it would equate to 356,220 valid signatures.
The other counties left to post their results are (signatures gathered in parenthesis): Colusa (733), El Dorado (4,849), Lake (2,734), Mono (470), San Mateo (18,104), and Trinity (240).
While several major sports betting operators stand for the online initiative, the other constitutional amendment involving sports betting is backed by tribal nations and their supporters.
The “Coalition for Safe Responsible Gaming” support the tribal initiative, which had its signatures verified in May 2021. That measure calls for the legalization of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at tribal casinos and the four thoroughbred racetracks in the state. It would not allow online apps, but it would also allow tribal casinos to offer roulette and dice games in addition to the Las Vegas-style slots and card-based table games they can currently provide.
The online sports betting measure was amended to include ways for tribes to offer sports betting and provide funding for tribal nations. However, tribal leaders and their supporters have come out in opposition to that measure, arguing that sports betting should be run by its casinos instead.
The debate surrounding California sports betting also includes a group that supports the state-licensed cardroom casinos, which has come out strongly against the tribal measure.
There is debate on what would happen should both measures get enough votes to pass, with the debate mainly focusing on whether the two measures conflict. Depending on what voters say in a little more than four months, it could take some time and possibly a court ruling – or rulings – to decide the outcome.
With California being the biggest prize in the US sports betting market, both groups are committed to spending millions to support their measures.
If the past is precedent, however, two similar gaming bills on the same ballot may spell doom for both.
In 2004, the state’s tribal nations wanted to expand the number of slot machines their casinos could hold to more than 2,000 at each while providing the state with 8.84% of revenues. At the same time, state-licensed racetracks and card casinos wanted voters to approve slot machines at their facilities.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected both measures.
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