Thursday, December 1, 2022

California Online Sports Betting Measure Heading for November Ballot

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Posted on: June 27, 2022, 07:57h. 

Last updated on: June 27, 2022, 09:54h.

The California Secretary of State’s office announced Monday evening that a petition seeking a constitutional amendment to legalize online sports betting cleared the necessary signature threshold. That makes it eligible for placement on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Venice Beach
The sun sets over Venice Beach in Los Angeles in this undated photo. On Monday, California officials announced a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to legalize online sports betting cleared the signature threshold needed to be placed on the November ballot. (Image: Circe Denyer/PublicDomainPictures.Net)

With 57 of the 58 counties reporting, election officials projected there were 1,142,317 valid signatures from registered voters. Under the random sample method used by officials, the online sports betting petition needed a projection of at least 1,096,853 – a figure representing 110% of the 997,139 signatures necessary for a constitutional amendment to go before voters – in order to ensure its place on the ballot this year.

Supporters of the initiative submitted petitions with 1.6 million signatures to elections officials beginning two months ago.

Monday was the deadline for elections officials to report their counts to the Secretary of State’s office, and eight counties had yet to report. That included Los Angeles and Riverside counties, which had two of the highest raw signature counts.

A check of more than 12,000 signatures on the LA County petition found 70.7% to be valid, equating to more than 295,500 signatures out of the more than 418,000 submitted. In Riverside, 76.1% of the 3,488 signatures checked were deemed valid, translating to nearly 88,500 out of the more than 116,000 submitted.

With more than 740,000 signatures previously deemed valid as of last week, those two counties pushed the proposal over the top.

According to a memo county elections officials received from Initiative and Referendum Coordinator Joan Hackerling, Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber will officially certify the measure as qualified on Thursday, unless supporters choose to withdraw it.

Initiative Would Fund Homelessness, Mental Health Measures

Under the proposed amendment, online sports betting licenses would be available to qualified operators for $100 million. In order to get one of those licenses, sports betting operators will need to be licensed in 10 other states or be licensed in five other states if they own or manage 12 Class III casinos.

California tribal gaming entities would also be allowed to offer sports betting and acquire licenses for $10 million each. However, tribal casinos would only be able to operate an online app or website using its own name or, in some cases, a trademark associated with the tribe.

Operator revenues would be taxed at 10%. According to the proposed measure, 85% of the proceeds generated by the tax would go to communities to help them fund initiatives for the homeless and for those who need mental health support services.

The measure is backed by “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support,” a committee that receives significant funding from seven online sports betting operators. They are BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, BallyBet, Barstool Sportsbook, Fanatics Sportsbook, and WynnBET. The sportsbooks have pledged to spend $100 million to promote the measure.

The group also has support from social services advocates and local-level politicians.

This initiative is a critical step forward, dedicating revenue to the issue of homelessness is a win-win for our state. It would provide an ongoing funding source of hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fight homelessness and provide mental health services to those most in need,” said Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness for the San Diego area.

The remainder of the funds generated by the online sports betting tax would go toward economic development initiatives for tribal nations not participating in the gaming activity.

Tribal Nations Stand Firm on Retail Sports Betting

While the online sports betting proposal offers a way for California’s tribes to participate and benefit, the leaders from those sovereign nations have come out in opposition to the measure. That’s largely due to the tribal nations’ own measure, which the state approved last year for this year’s ballot.

That measure would legalize retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and the state’s four thoroughbred racetracks.

A group of tribal nations and their supporters have formed the “Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming” to defend tribal gaming interests from what it calls the “corporate online gaming proposition.” The coalition has backing from the Pechanga Band of Indians, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and the Agua Cailente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

As voters now will likely have two sports betting questions before them on the November ballot, tribal leaders believe the public will get behind their initiative.

“Our measure represents a responsible, incremental approach to allowing sports wagering in California without the risks of opening up every connected device to online gambling,” said Kenneth Kahn, chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

A group of tribal nations tried to organize another amendment that would have given them control of online sports betting, but organizers were not able to gather enough signatures in time to get that question posted on this year’s ballot.

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