- The California general election ballot will officially have two sports betting measures
- Allegiances for the two measures are beginning to form between California tribes, businesses, and groups
- November’s outcome could lead to litigation surrounding California sports betting
The fight for California sports betting is in the home stretch.
With California Secretary of State Shirley Weber affirming an online sports betting measure this week, California voters will find not one, but two sports betting initiatives on their November general election ballots.
The “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act,” an initiative hoping to legalize online sports betting for operators partnered with a California tribe, submitted more than 1.1 million verified signatures to secure its place on the state’s general election ballot. The initiative is 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 initiative calls for a 10% tax on online sports betting, with 85% of tax revenues going to programs to help solve homelessness and those that support mental health. The remaining 15% of the tax revenues would be earmarked for California tribes not partnered with an operator.
It joins the “Tribal Sports Wagering Act,” which procured its necessary verified signatures last year to appear on the 2022 ballot. Backed by a consortium of California tribes, the measures would authorize in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and licensed horse racetracks. It would also legalize dice games and roulette at tribal casinos.
The initiative calls for a 10% tax on retail sports bets made at California horse racetracks. It would require California tribes to reimburse the state for costs associated with regulating sports betting.
So what happens now? Both initiatives will be decided by the whim of California voters, but what happens if both are approved? If neither are approved? And who exactly is supporting these initiatives?
Potential California Sports Betting Election Outcomes
One of the more confusing aspects of this process is the voting procedure for these initiatives. Both will appear on the upcoming general election ballot, but are they in contention with one another? Do voters have to choose between either of them?
Both will appear on the ballot and California votes will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on each question. If either of the measures receive more than 50% “yes” votes, they will be approved and go into effect in 2023.
But what happens if both get approved by voters? Will both go into effect? Here’s where things get a little tricky. According to the constitution of California, if there are two voter initiatives on a ballot that are in direct conflict with each other and they are both approved by voters, the initiative that has the highest amount of votes will go into effect.
As it’s written, the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” claims it is not in direct conflict with any retail sports betting measure that may appear on the ballot.
“Online and in-person sports betting are complementary and supplementary to each other. They can be offered concurrently in California in order to maximize the amount of tax revenue generated,” authors wrote in the initiative.
So what does this mean? The wording in the online sports betting initiative declares if both are approved by California voters then each measure can go into effect in 2023. The claim that the measures are not in direct conflict with each other will likely be a heated point of contention if both initiatives are approved.
If both are approved, but the online initiative receives more votes than the retail initiative, both will go into effect. However, if both pass and the retail sports betting initiative receives more votes, the backing California tribes would likely take the result to court and seek to declare the online sports betting measure to be in direct conflict with their retail measure.
Who Is Backing These Measures?
It’s no secret that the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” is backed by some of the largest sports betting companies in the world, and the “Tribal Sports Wagering Act” is backed by a broad coalition of California Tribes.
According to a spokesperson for the “Tribal Sports Wagering Act,” the measure is supported by more than 80 civil rights organizations, faith leaders, public safety groups, business advocates, and California Indian tribes. These groups support safe, in-person sports betting that would restrict sports betting access to underage Californians.
“Requiring individuals to be physically present in-person to place bets is the safest and most responsible way for California to legalize sports wagering,” said Bill Young, President, Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, in a press release. “It is the best way to prevent underage gambling and ensure people are not placing bets illegally.”
According to a spokesperson for the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act,” in addition to it backing sports betting companies, several California mayors and non-profit leaders have endorsed the measure and its plan to invest millions in the fight against homelessness and expand mental health and addiction treatment.
Recently, three California tribes also publicly backed the online sports betting initiative. The Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, and the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe announced their support for the online sports betting measure.
“The Solutions Act would be life-changing for our people,” said Philip Gomez, Chair of the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, in a press release. “For too long, rural and economically disadvantaged Tribes like ours have struggled to provide for our people. This measure would provide us with economic opportunities to fortify our Tribe’s future for generations to come.”