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Battle for Legalized California Sports Betting Is Heating Up

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Feb 9, 2022 · 11:54 AM PST

california online sports betting
An initiative on sports betting becoming legalized in California by 2023 will be voted on late next year.
  • California Tribes are gearing up efforts – including a massive campaign fund – to keep sports betting in their control
  • Voters may see up to four initiatives seeking to legalize California sports betting in some fashion on the 2022 general election ballot
  • FanDuel, DraftKings, and various other online sportsbooks, are backing an initiative to legalize online sports betting in the state

California is less than nine months away from its 2022 general elections and the fight for legalized California sports betting is starting to gear up.

Californians may see up to four initiatives to legalize sports betting in some fashion on the 2022 general election ballot. Only one initiative, a tribal-led initiative to legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and state racetracks, has procured the necessary signatures to appeal on the 2022 ballot. If approved, the initiative would also legalize dice games and roulette at tribal casinos.

Will Tribes Control California Sports Betting?

California tribes have also floated a second initiative to legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and allow tribes to offer online sports betting. California Secretary of State Shirley Weber approved the tribes’ petition for circulation in January and the tribal coalition is currently gathering signatures to place it on the Nov. 2022 ballot.

The California Tribes are firmly in support of keeping California sports betting as a monopoly and oppose a separate initiative, backed by several large online sportsbook companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel, to legalize online sports betting for sportsbooks that have partnered with a California Tribe.

The “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” was officially filed with the state attorney general’s office in September 2021 and seeks to allow qualified sportsbook operators to partner with California Tribal Nations to operate online sports betting. Backed by DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, Fanatics Betting and Gaming, Bally’s Interactive, WynnBET and Penn National Gaming/Barstool Sportsbook through a $100 million contribution, the campaign for the initiative is in the process of collecting verified signatures to officially place the initiative on the 2022 November general election ballot.

If approved, the initiative will allocate 85% of revenue to the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Account, which will help combat homelessness and mental health issues in the state. The additional 15% of revenue will be allocated to the Tribal Economic Development Account, which will provide economic development and assistance to tribes in the state who do not participate in the online sports betting program.

In January, the initiative campaign announced it had crossed the 25% threshold of required signatures to appear on the ballot.

“California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” representatives have said their initiative does not have to run in opposition to the tribes’ initiative to legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos. Both could be approved by California voters, they have noted.

Campaign Mounted Against FanDuel, DraftKings Backed Initiative

Tribal representatives are firmly opposed to the initiative, preferring to keep the future of retail and online sports betting in the hands of California tribes. Three California tribal governments today announced the formation of a committee to campaign against the FanDuel and DraftKings backed online sports betting measure.

The “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming” committee announced an initial campaign budget of $100 million to oppose the online sportsbook operator initiative.

“In 2000, Californians voted to give sovereign Indian nations the exclusive right to operate gaming in California. The online sports betting measure sponsored by out of state corporations violates that promise of sovereignty, which has worked exceptionally well now for over two decades to the benefit for the tribes and California,” Roger Salazar, a spokesperson for the committee, said in a press release.

Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act,” told Sports Betting Dime the campaign will not be “deterred by these false political attacks.”

“Our measure is proving to be incredibly popular with Californians. Ours will be the only measure on the ballot that will guarantee hundreds of millions annually to help solve homelessness and support mental health care. Nearly half of the country has now authorized online sports betting – proving it can be safely regulated and generate significant revenue to help states solve big problems. And our measure provides millions in revenue for California Tribes – both to gaming and non-gaming Tribes alike,” he said.

A fourth initiative, backed by several California mayors, would allow state card rooms and tribal casinos to offer both retail and online sports betting. The initiative would also legalize new card and tile games for both types of facilities.

Each of the three pending initiatives need 997,139 verified voter signatures to appear on the 2022 ballot. As it stands, only the online sportsbook backed initiative has crossed the 25% signature threshold.

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