Legal sports betting in California moved a step closer Thursday when the secretary of state’s office confirmed a measure brought forward by a coalition of federally recognized Native Indian tribes received the necessary number of valid voter signatures to advance.
Gambling Expansion in Sight
The California secretary of state’s office said it verified the signatures of 1,061,282 registered voters, surpassing the requirement of 997,139 valid signatures to put the measure on a referendum vote. In December last year, tribal leaders submitted a charter with 1.4 million signatures of state voters to put the legalization of sports betting on the November 2022 ballot.
The measure that is expected to receive final certification by the end of June 2021, if approved by California residents in November 2022, will clear the path for tribal casinos to operate roulette and dice games, as well as offer in-person sports betting, provided they negotiated state compacts with the governor and had them approved by the state legislature.
Onsite sports betting will be authorized for privately operated horse racetracks in Alameda, Los Angeles and Orange and San Diego counties, with a 10% gaming tax on gross gaming revenue applicable to both the racetracks and casinos as part of the proposed measure. A portion of the generated revenue will be allocated for “enforcement and problem-gambling programs”.
The sports betting initiative is supported by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians which operates 3 casinos in the area across Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, the Barona Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in Brooks and the Pechange Band of Luiseño Indians near Temecula.
“This is an important step toward giving Californians the opportunity to participate in sports wagering while also establishing safeguards and protections against underage gambling.” Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
Cardrooms Left Out
Major opposition to the measure comes from non-tribal cardrooms and casinos which were left out of the gambling expansion initiative, calling it Gambling Power Grab. Elevation Entertainment Group in San Diego, Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens and Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood were among the biggest donors for the committee set up by the opposition which received last year $1.1 million in donations.
On the other side, the committee set by Californian tribes proposing the measure called the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering received 10 times more, $11.55 million, as the tribes donated between $1.25 million and $2 million each.
Cardroom operators were also among the significant donors to Attorney General Rob Bonta’s 2022 re-election campaign, an institution tasked in California with issuing the official title and brief summary of ballot initiatives for the voters to read and consider.